Paleontologists unearthed a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skull in the red siltstone of the Los Blanquitos Formation, in northwestern Argentina.with which they identified a new species of hunting dinosaur without arms, providing new evidence of a unique ecosystem during the Late Cretaceous, close to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.
the new species, Guemesia ochoai, could be a close relative of the ancestors of a group of armless dinosaurs, the abelisauridswho roamed the lands that are now South America, Africa, and India more than 70 million years ago.
Fearsome armless carnivores
Abelisaurids were powerful hunters that did not use their arms. And it is that its appendages were remarkably short, even smaller than those of Tyrannosaurus rex and effectively useless. Instead, these fearsome carnivores used their powerful heads and jaws to hunt.
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Scientists believe that they fed on some of the largest dinosaurs that have ever lived, such as the titanosaura 70-ton herbivore larger than a blue whale.
The skull of Guemesia ochoai, the only one of its kind found in northwestern Argentina, offers valuable insight into an area where there are very few abelisaur fossils, and may help explain why the area gave rise to such unusual animals.
“This new dinosaur is quite unusual for its species. It features several key features that suggest it is a new species, providing important new information about an area of the world we don’t know much about.Anjali Goswami, who leads the research at the UK Natural History Museum and is a co-author of the discovery, said in a press release.
“It shows that the dinosaurs that live in this region were very different from those in other parts of Argentina,” he added.
According to the scientists, who published their findings this month in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Guemesia ochoai, unlike other abelisaurids, has a “remarkably small” brain.
Unique dinosaur features
By studying the partially complete skull –with upper and posterior parts– the team found evidence of other unique features of the armless dinosaur. The remains of the dinosaur show short and deep skulls.
Unlike other abelisaurids, the new fossil has holes in the front of its skull, which could have helped the dinosaur release heat to cool itself.
What’s more, the brain of this new species is 70% smaller than that of its relatives. Scientists hypothesize that this skull may belong to a juvenile dinosaur. However, no concrete conclusions have yet been drawn.
On the other hand, the researchers found no features indicating that the new species had horns, a characteristic feature of other abelisaurids. These distinctions could mean that Guemesia ochoai is one of the earliest species of abelisaurids to evolve, or that it is closely related to that ancestor.
Goswami’s team has discovered other new species at the same dig site, including fish and mammals. They are still in the process of describing them in articles for publication.
(With information from DW)
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