Paleontologists have stumbled upon the fossils of a new dinosaur species in one of the unlikeliest places. The puzzling discovery was made in the Neuquen province of Argentina, in an “unusual” location where no one would think to go looking for dinosaur bones.
According to AFP, the newfound dinosaur species belongs to the sauropod group — gigantic herbivores that stood up to 108 feet tall and weighed as much as 120 tons.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, sauropods were the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth. These megaherbivores lived throughout the entire Mesozoic Era, spanning from 251 million to 65 million years ago.
The new sauropod species discovered in Argentina was named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis and was identified as a rebbachisaurus — a genus of sauropod from the Diplodocoidea family, which also included some of the iconic sauropod giants, such as Supersaurus, Diplodocus, and Apatosaurus.
The new species was described from fossils belonging to three individuals — one adult and two juveniles. Judging by the size of the bones, the adult Lavocatisaurus agrioensis was about 39 feet long, whereas the two juveniles had only grown to about 20 feet in length.
The first remarkable thing about this discovery is that the fossils were unearthed in an area which wouldn’t have normally accommodated the gentle giants.
Researchers in Argentina have made the surprising discovery of dinosaur bones from a new species in an unexpected areahttps://t.co/CB6IGJxB3q
— AFP news agency (@AFP) November 2, 2018
Lavocatisaurus agrioensis roamed the planet 110 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous — a time when the Neuquen site would have been a desolate desert region with very few water sources. As AFP points out, finding these fossils here was “unusual” and “a huge surprise” for paleontologists.
“While one can imagine that this group of sauropods could have adapted to move in more arid environments, with little vegetation, little humidity and little water,” said Jose Luis Carballido, a researcher at the Egidio Feruglio museum.
“It’s an area in which you wouldn’t be looking for fossils.”
Carballido is also the co-author of a recent study detailing the discovery of the new sauropod species. The paper was published at the end of October in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
While none of the three Lavocatisaurus agrioensis skeletons were found intact, this is one of the most impressive rebbachisaurus finds that paleontologists have come across in a long time.
The dig at Neuquen yielded an almost complete skull — a rarity among rebbachisaurus fossils — along with parts of the dinosaur’s neck, tail, and back. Taken together, the dinosaur remains feature almost all the bones of a Lavocatisaurus agrioensis, the authors wrote in the study.
“We found most of the cranial bones: the snout, the jaws, a lot of teeth, also the bones that define the eye sockets — for example — and, in that way, we were able to create an almost complete reconstruction,” said Carballido.
“Not only is this the discovery of a new species in an area where you wouldn’t expect to find fossils, but the skull is almost complete.”
Equally notable is the fact that the three Lavocatisaurus agrioensis skeletons were found together — the first time ever that paleontologists uncovered rebbachisaurus fossils from multiple individuals.
“This discovery of an adult and two juveniles also signifies the first record of a group displacement among the rebbachisaurus dinosaurs,” said Jose Ignacio Canudo of Zaragoza University, the lead author of the study announcing the new sauropod species.