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'Jurassic Park' Unearthed In Argentina's Patagonia 

By Simon Gardner

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentine paleontologists declared on Wednesday that they had found a sprawling "Jurassic Park" of dinosaur fossils in the heart of Patagonia they dubbed "possibly the most significant find ever". 

The find in the province of Chubut, on an arid plateau some 950 miles south of Buenos Aires, includes four unknown species of dinosaurs from the Jurassic period around 150-160 million years ago, one of the world's oldest known mammals and a host of fossils of reptiles and ancient sea turtles.

Experts estimated they had unearthed only around two percent of the contents of the vast fossil deposit, which sprawls over hundreds of square miles in southern Argentina.

"It is a veritable Jurassic park," said Gerardo Cladera of the Egidio Feruglio Paleontology Museum in Trelew, whose team of experts made the find. "What we have found is very important, firstly because of the range of the fossils found, and secondly because of the age."

"Jurassic-period fossils are very, very rare. They have only been found in China and Madagascar ... so we know very little about the evolution of the dinosaurs, (winged) pterosauri, and mammals from this key period."

High sea levels during the tropical Jurassic period which extended from 213-144 million years ago meant there was relatively little land on which dinosaur remains could remain intact, and not be washed away into the oceans, Cladera added.

NEW SPECIES NOT NAMED YET

The new species found which the experts have yet to classify and name include two herbivorous saurpodi some 10 yards long, and larger carnivorous theropodi. The mammal fossil found the size of a rat although it isn't a rodent was also unknown.

One of the sauropoda fossils was also believed to be complete, something very rare for dinosaur remains.

Argentina is renowned for its dinosaur finds. The name "Jurassic Park" is taken from a popular Steven Spielberg movie about a park of living dinosaurs cloned from fossil material.

Last week paleontologists in the province of Neuquen, southwest of Buenos Aires, found the 95-million-year-old remains of a previously unknown herbivore.

Neuquen, which was a steaming swap millions of years ago and has been dubbed "Dinosaur Valley" thanks to the myriad fossils found there, also yielded the remains of the largest dinosaur known to have roamed the earth, the Argentinosaurus, discovered in 1990.

The area of Chubut where the latest discovery has been made was originally explored in the 1970s-80s, when the remains of two dinosaurs were found. But the area was then left unstudied until six months ago, when a local farmer found bones emerging from a rock on the plain.

On closer inspection, the Trelew museum's paleontology team found a very well preserved backbone of a large herbivore. They will start excavating the remains at the beginning of March.

 

Copyright 2010 Tim Stouse
Last modified: December 10, 2010
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