February 18, 2019
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Science & Technology

Fossils of new dinosaur species found in Argentina's Patagonia

Buenos Aires, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- A group of paleontologists discovered fossils from a heretofore unknown species of dinosaur in Argentina's Patagonia region, authorities announced Monday in Buenos Aires.

The "new" dinosaur - which was designated "Bajadasaurus pronuspinax," referring to the Bajada Colorada geological formation in Neuquen province where the remains of the animal that lived approximately 140 million years ago were found - belongs to the sauropod group and is noteworthy for the large bony spikes covering its neck and back, according to scientists announcing the find at this capital's Cultural Science Center

Paleontologist Pablo Gallina, one of the four authors of the study, told EFE that Bajadasaurus is a member of the dicraeosaurid family within the larger sauropod group.

"The sauropods are the big dinosaurs with long necks and long tails, but specifically this is a small family within the sauropods which were about nine or 10 meters (29.5 - 33 feet) in length," Gallina said.

The researcher, who also works with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Conicet), said that Bajadasaurus has the species name "pronuspinax" because a "very characteristic (feature) of this new dinosaur ... is the presence of very long spines that point forward all over its neck."

During the investigation, the scientists considered several hypotheses regarding the function of the spines, since - Gallina said - from fossils it is "very difficult" to be able to say whether the spines were associated with a fleshy hump to store fat reserves or some kind of "sail" to help regulate body temperature.

However, they finally decided that the "most probable" hypothesis was that the spines served as a defensive structure for these plant-eating dinosaurs.

"It wouldn't be an active defense, but rather a passive defense - that is, a kind of warning defense. These are structures that give a warning to carnivores that may approach. A carnivore comes up, sees a gigantic spiny structure and thinks twice (about attacking)," Gallina said.

The first fossils of this dinosaur were found in late 2013 and since then researchers have been proceeding with the time-consuming task of carefully cleaning them and visiting different museums to compare them with the remains of other species from around the world.

The results of the study undertaken by four paleontologists and researchers from Conicet, the Felix de Azara Foundation, Maimonides University and the Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum were published on Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.

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