Scientific discovery in Patagonia: they found a new dinosaur related to birds

Scientific discovery in Patagonia: they found a new dinosaur related to birds
Scientific discovery in Patagonia: they found a new dinosaur related to birds

An Argentine researcher, together with international scientists, discovers a new species of carnivorous dinosaur in Neuquén (Photo: / CONICET)

A researcher of CONICETtogether with a team of national and international colleagues, has revealed the discovery of a new species of carnivorous dinosaur in the magazine BMC Ecology and Evolution. This species, named Diuqin lechiguanaelived approximately 83 million years in the current province of Neuquen, Argentina.

Federico Gianechiniresearcher of CONICET at the Multidisciplinary Institute of Biological Research of San Luis (IMIBIO-SL, CONICET-UNSL), stated that the discovery has great value. “This helps us understand a little more about the kinship relationships between unenlagines and other groups of theropods,” Gianechini said. This finding is significant because unenlagines, a type of theropod dinosaur, are very rare, and each new fossil provides valuable anatomical information and information on the diversity of this group.

He Diuqin lechiguanae was identified from a very incomplete postcranial skeleton, including a posterior sacral neural arch, an anterior caudal neural arch, and the nearly complete left humerus. Despite being incomplete, the preserved bones show significant differences with other unenlagiines, which justifies the identification of this new taxon. In particular, the humerus of Diuqin It is presented as an intermediate link between the oldest specimens, such as Unenlagia of the Portezuelo Formation, and the most recent and largest, such as Austroraptor cabazai of the Allen Formation.

This discovery is crucial since Diuqin It occupies an approximate temporal position between 85 million years (Santonian) and 72 million years (Campanian-Maastrichtian), and thus filling a gap of at least 15 million years in the fossil record of the unenlagiines.

The dinosaur, named Diuqin lechiguanae, inhabited Patagonia approximately 83 million years ago (Photo: / CONICET)

The unenlagiines They are a group of predatory dinosaurs from the Southern Hemisphere, within the clade Paraves, which includes birds and their closest non-avian relatives. Its fossil record is predominantly found in Argentinawith additional findings in Brazil, Chili, Colombia and Antarctica. These dinosaurs are important for understanding the origin of birds due to their close phylogenetic relationship with Avialae.

Until this discovery, the defined record of Argentine unenlagiines consisted of six named species from the Neuquén Basin, from the Cenomanian (about 98 million years ago) to the Maastrichtian (about 72 million years ago). These include Buitreraptor gonzalezorum, Unenlagia comahuensis, Unenlagia paynemili, Neuquenraptor argentinus, Pamparaptor micros and Austroraptor cabazai. Some researchers suggest that Neuquenraptor could be a more recent synonym for Unenlagia.

The fossil of Diuqin lechiguanae was recovered from a level of quartz-rich sandstones exposed between the lakes Barrales and Mari Menuco by the first author, Juan D. Porfiri, and your team. Morphological and taphonomic analyses, together with an exhaustive comparison with other theropods from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia, allowed the identification of this new taxon.

Diuqin It is distinguished by several autapomorphies, or unique characteristics, not found in other known unenlagiines. Distinguishing features include a horizontal accessory lamina between the spinopostzygapophyseal laminae of the last sacral vertebra and a pair of dorsolaterally oriented elliptical foramina on the sacral vertebra and the anterior caudal vertebra. Additionally, the deltopectoral crest of the humerus originates from the distal half of the deltopectoral crest, which is also a unique feature.

Federico Gianechini highlights the importance of the discovery for understanding unenlagines, a group of theropod dinosaurs (Photo: / CONICET)

The phylogenetic analysis places Diuqin within Unenlagiinae, although with varied systematic positions within the clade. This suggests that Diuqin It may represent a transitional stage in the evolution of unenlagiines, showing intermediate morphologies between older and younger species in the region.

In addition to closing a large gap in the fossil record, Diuqin offers new perspectives on the paleoecology of the Late Cretaceous in Patagonia. The bite marks observed on the humerus of Diuqin suggest predatory, and possibly scavenging, interactions involving large tetrapods of the time. These marks could have been made by crocodilemorphs, mammals, or even other theropod dinosaurs such as megaraptorids.

The discovery of Diuqin lechiguanae in the Bajo de la Carpa Formation fills a key temporal and morphological gap, providing new information on the evolution and ecology of unenlagiines in the Southern Hemisphere during the Late Cretaceous.

This finding highlights the richness and diversity of prehistoric South American fauna and offers new opportunities to understand the evolution of theropod dinosaurs in this region.

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