Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia, which they said had an extremely unusual tail that stunned researchers.
The remains of Stegoros elongaciens were discovered in 2018 during excavations at Cerro Guido, which are known to harbor many fossils, believed by a team to be dealing with already known species of dinosaur. until they examined its tail.
“That was the main surprise,” said one of the paleontologists, Alexander Vargas. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”
“The tail was covered by seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon completely different from what we know in any dinosaur,” the researcher said during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.
Osteoderms – structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – align on either side of the tail, giving it a large fern-like appearance.
Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the region between 71 and 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (about seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 lb) and was a herbivore.
According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animals may represent a previously unknown lineage of armored dinosaurs never seen in the Southern Hemisphere, but already identified in the northern part of the continent.
Another member of the team, Sergio Soto, said, “We don’t know why[the tail]evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms independently. “
The Cerro Guido region, in the Las Chinas valley, 3,000 km (1,800 mi) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 km. Various rock outcrops contain many fossils.
Discoveries there allowed scientists to infer that present-day America and Antarctica were closer to each other millions of years ago.
“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs that are closely related to Stegaros”, Soto said.
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