In the 1990s, scientists in Chile unearthed the fossils belonging to a new species of dinosaur, and on Monday (April 19), the Chilean Culture Ministry finally made the announcement public. This is only the third “non-avian” dinosaur ever found in the South American country.
“This represents a relevant milestone for the Chilean paleontological heritage,” says David Rubilar, head of the paleontology area at Chile’s Museum of Natural History. “The group of titanosaurs is very broad and diverse, with repeated finds in what is today Argentina and Brazil. However, it’s much rarer to find them on this side of the [Andes] mountains. There are many fewer examples of them.”
The titanosaur fossil was found in the Atacama Desert near the city of Copiapó in northern Chile. The specific bones discovered included a femur, a humerus, an ischium (base of the pelvis) and several neck and dorsal vertebrae. It is considered one of the most complete titanosaur skeletons found along the western coast of South America.
The species, which has been named Arackar licanantay (meaning “Atacama bones” in the indigenous Kunza language), is said to have lived between 66 and 80 million years ago, during the final stage of the Cretaceous Period.
Arackar licanantay is believed to have been a plant-eater with a small head, long neck and long tail. The remains of the large reptile are about 21 feet in length.
The team that discovered the fossils in the 1990s was led by Chilean geologist Carlos Arévalo, who continued his research through the 2000s with a team of paleontologists from the University of Chile’s Paleontological Network, Chile’s National Museum of Natural History and the Dinosaur Laboratory at Argentina’s National University of Cuyo.
Plans are to display the fossils at Chile’s Museum of Natural History soon.