Brazil’s big­gest dino found after 60 years Re­mains were in cup­board

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Brazil just found its big­gest ever di­nosaur-in a stor­age cup­board. In its prime, more than 66 mil­lion years ago, this long necked her­bi­vore was 25 me­ters (82 feet) long-longer than an ar­tic­u­lated bus-and could chomp through trees at a ter­ri­fy­ing rate.

By the time the crea­ture was found by renowned Brazil­ian pa­le­on­tol­o­gist Llewellyn Ivor Price in 1953, only a few hefty, fos­silized bits of the spine re­mained. Re­searchers knew im­me­di­ately they’d stum­bled on some­thing big. They didn’t have the staff or re­sources to fig­ure out how big, how­ever, so the di­nosaur pieces lan­guished the next six decades in stor­age at Rio’s or­nate Mu­seum of Earth Sci­ences. Un­til now.

The re­mains of what has been named “Aus­tro­po­sei­don mag­nifi­cus,” and pro­nounced Brazil’s big­gest di­nosaur, went on gen­eral pub­lic view for the first time Thurs­day. A nearly com­plete spinal ver­te­bra-about the size of a mi­crowave oven and en­tirely pet­ri­fied-and nu­mer­ous frag­ments of other ver­te­brae lie on a black cloth in an up­per room of the mu­seum.

Nearby hangs an enor­mous artist’s ren­di­tion, done to scale, of what “Aus­tro­po­sei­don mag­nifi­cus” might have looked like: a small head, long neck, enor­mous body and long tail. A patch of the rep­tile’s skin is shown pulled back to re­veal where the prize ver­te­bra would have slot­ted in.

‘What, 60 years?’

Mu­seum di­rec­tor Dio­genes de Almeida Cam­pos said six decades does sound on the slow side for study­ing such a big find. “A friend said to me just yes­ter­day, ‘Dio­gones, what, it took you 60 years?’,” he re­called with a wry smile. “It sounds a bit ridicu­lous to say this.” But he ex­plained that in the 1950s Price and his as­sis­tants were pi­o­neers in the field for Brazil, and while “it was cer­tain that ver­te­brae of this size came from a gi­gan­tic an­i­mal, it needed to be stud­ied.” Cam­pos said money was an is­sue hold­ing back re­search, as well as a lack of peo­ple up to the task. Even today there are only 10 se­ri­ous di­nosaur ex­perts in the coun­try, he said. “We were wait­ing for the staff..., for a lab­o­ra­tory that started from noth­ing to ma­ture,” he said. “We made a first ef­fort with stu­dents about eight years ago and it didn’t suc­ceed.” Fi­nally, Cam­pos’ stu­dent Kamila Bandeira made the mys­te­ri­ous mon­ster the sub­ject of her doc­toral the­sis and over the last four years put the pieces of the puz­zle to­gether.

Di­nosaurs in back yards

The most spec­tac­u­lar di­nosaur dis­cov­er­ies come in desert or largely bare ar­eas, such as the US south­west, the south of Ar­gentina or Mon­go­lia, where they are eas­ier to find. The fos­silized bones of the big­gest di­nosaur known to date — an es­ti­mated 40 me­ters (130 feet) long­were un­earthed in Ar­gentina in 2014.

“Aus­tro­po­sei­don mag­nifi­cus” was found, like many other di­nosaur re­mains, by chance dur­ing road build­ing near Sao Paulo. The rea­son only a few fos­silized bones were found-and not the whole skele­ton-points to the crea­ture’s un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous end, Cam­pos says.

“When th­ese an­i­mals die, it’s... a huge new source of meat. So all the hunters, the car­ni­vores ate this crea­ture. The first thing they ate is the head, be­cause the brain must be tasty,” said Cam­pos. “They also broke the long bones to get at the mar­row... After, came smaller an­i­mals and noth­ing was left over. Any­thing that did re­main the bee­tles and the spi­ders and the ants fin­ished, and when there was just bones, the bac­te­ria came. Fi­nally the re­mains sank into the la­goon.”

There may be many such dis­cov­er­ies wait­ing to be made in Brazil’s thick flora. “Pay at­ten­tion when roads are built, when wells are dug,” Cam­pos ad­vised. “You could have a di­nosaur in your back­yard and not re­al­ize!”

Ex­tinc­tion then and now

A life­time hang­ing around fos­sils of ex­tinct giants has given Cam­pos, 73, unique perspective on cre­ation and de­struc­tion. But today’s world, where hu­man ac­tiv­ity dom­i­nates for the first time, dis­turbs him. “Ex­tinc­tion is as nor­mal a thing for pa­le­on­tol­o­gists, as is the ap­pear­ance of a new species,” he said. “But in com­par­i­son with what’s hap­pen­ing today-the dis­ap­pear­ance of tigers or whales-this is not caused by na­ture.”“It’s wor­ry­ing.” In the pala­tial but at times shock­ingly de­crepit Rio mu­seum-a vic­tim, like many other Brazil­ian pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, of un­der­fund­ingCam­pos said his job was a great pas­sion. He re­called study­ing un­der the great Price and “trav­el­ing with him over al­most all of Brazil, col­lect­ing ma­te­ri­als.” — AFP

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