A remarkable dinosaur fossil, believed to be around 90 million years old, has been unearthed in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The discovery, made by paleontologists from the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, the Universidade Federal de São Carlos, and the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade Federal do São Paulo, took place in the small city of General Salgado, approximately 600 kilometers from the state capital. The area yielded a collection of at least ten dinosaur skeletons that date back to the late Cretaceous period.
What makes this find even more extraordinary is the evidence suggesting the existence of at least three distinct species groups, consisting of both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. The diverse range of individuals discovered by the researchers adds a new layer of knowledge to the understanding of dinosaurs during this period.
Paleontologist and doctoral student at the USP Museum of Zoology, Bruno Navarro, described the find as unprecedented. He said, “É realmente um achado inédito porque outras pegadas da mesma bacia que já foram descritas so de outra formação, no Estado do Paraná, e com idade diferente,” which translates to, “It is truly an unprecedented find because other footprints from the same basin that have already been described are from a different formation, in the state of Paraná, and of different age.”
In order to transport the fossils to the Paleontology Laboratory at MZUSP, the rocks had to be broken into three pieces, each weighing close to a hundred kilograms. This challenging task highlights the exceptional size and weight of the specimens found.
The discovery was a stroke of luck. Zoology professor Ariovaldo Giaretta from the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (campus de Ituiutaba) stumbled upon the footprints while searching for snake skeletons in the Triangular Basin region.
Researchers have identified the bones as belonging to a sauropod, a large, four-legged herbivorous dinosaur, a theropod, a group of bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs that includes birds, and potentially an ornithopod, a bipedal herbivorous dinosaur. The use of fossilized teeth has provided valuable insights into distinguishing between different species based on the distinct deformations they leave in rock.
However, as of now, it remains challenging to establish which specific species each footprint belongs to. Navarro explains, “We haven’t been able to link a specific species with icnology [the branch of paleontology that investigates fossilized remains of organisms]. Since most of us are affiliated with producers, we’ve been able to single out three distinct patterns of ties.”
The footprints were discovered in sediments located in the Bacia Bauru region, known for its cretaceous rocks found in the interior states of Paraná, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and even a part of Mato Grosso do Sul. The Cretaceous Period, the final era of the Mesozoic Era, lasted approximately 145 to 66 million years ago.
While previous discoveries in the same basin have uncovered crocodile, turtle, bird, snake, and dinosaur skeletons, the pristine condition of the footprints found in General Salgado marks a significant breakthrough. The well-preserved pegadillos raise hopes that lab analysis at MZUSP will reveal vital information about the environment in which these animals lived. Scientists speculate that the footprints were formed when the dinosaurs drank from a nearby river, providing clues about their behavior and habitat preferences.
As the lab analysis continues, it is anticipated that more details about these extraordinary dinosaur footprints will come to light, shedding further light on the ancient landscape of Brazil and the diverse range of dinosaur species that once roamed the region. This discovery not only adds to the country’s rich paleontological heritage but also provides valuable insights into the evolutionary history and ecological dynamics of dinosaurs during the late Cretaceous period.