Remains of previously unknown dinosaur discovered in Chile

Titanosaur species found in Atacama desert, now a barren land but which millions of years ago would have provided herbivore with lush plant life to feed on

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 20 April 2021 10:32
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An artist’s impression of the plant-eating dinosaur whose remains scientists have discovered in the Atacama desert in Chile
An artist’s impression of the plant-eating dinosaur whose remains scientists have discovered in the Atacama desert in Chile

A previously unknown species of dinosaur has been discovered by scientists in Chile’s barren Atacama desert, an area the herbivore would have known millions of years ago as dense with lush foliage.

The remains of Arackar licanantay, which means “Atacama bones” in the Kunza language, was discovered 47 miles south of the city of Copiapo by a team of geologists led by Carlos Arevalo.

The titanosaur appears to have had a small head but a long neck and tail, as well as an unusually flat back compared with others like it.

The dinosaur is thought to have lived during the Cretaceous period 66-80 million years ago when the region - which now resembles the surface of the moon, parts of the desert having gone without rain for 100 years - would have been overrun with tropical plantlife, flowers, ferns and palm trees.

The discovery of a titanosaur on the west side of South America’s Andes Mountains is rare, though several species have been found further east in Argentina and Brazil.

Arackar is smaller in size than other titanosaurs like the Argentinosaurus, discovered in neighbouring Argentina, which was more than four times as long, scientists say.

The dinosaur’s remains were first discovered in the 1990s and were described by the team in the academic journal Cretaceous Research.

They will eventually be exhibited in Chile’s Museum of Natural History when it reopens with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

Additional reporting by agencies

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