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Perijasaurus lapaz: The unimaginable story of how a brand new dinosaur species was found in Colombia | Tradition

Paleontologists Mónica Carvalho and Jeff Wilson with the vertebra of the new dinosaur 'Perijasaurus lapaz' at the University of Michigan. (Courtesy)
Paleontologists Mónica Carvalho and Jeff Wilson with the vertebra of the brand new dinosaur ‘Perijasaurus lapaz’ on the College of Michigan. (Courtesy)Cortesía

About 175 million years in the past, a herbivorous dinosaur with 4 thick legs, a tiny head and a really lengthy neck and tail roamed the Serranía del Perijá mountain vary in northern Colombia. This lately found species is the second dinosaur identified to be of Colombian origin, and offers one other clue to the evolutionary historical past of those prehistoric giants in South America.

Digital reconstruction of the dinosaur.
Digital reconstruction of the dinosaur.

“Can we are saying that now we have a brand new Colombian dinosaur?” we ask. “Sure, positively. This species doesn’t appear to be associated to dinosaurs that inhabited the tropics throughout the Early Jurassic Epoch,” replies Aldo Rincón, a professor on the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla (northern Colombia) and lead creator of the latest examine printed within the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. “The primary variations between this dinosaur and others might be seen within the preserved morphology of the vertebra.” The group that studied the dinosaur and authored the article with Rincón contains paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson (College of Michigan, USA); museum curator Martín Ezcurra (Argentine Museum of Pure Sciences); geologist Harold Jiménez (Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia); and geologist Daniel Raad (Universidad del Norte, Baranquilla, Colombia).

The brand new dinosaur species known as Perijasaurus lapaz. “Perijá for the mountain vary the place the fossil was discovered and lapaz [the peace] to honor the 2016 peace settlement between the Colombian authorities and the FARC guerrillas,” stated Raad. The peace settlement allowed scientists to entry the distant space lengthy managed by the guerrillas.

Rincón remembers how the analysis group stayed at a particular coaching and reintegration zone for ex-guerrillas who now work in ecotourism. “I preferred having the chance to go to the Serranía del Perijá after the peace accords. Sadly, scientists couldn’t go there for a few years,” stated Rincón.

Professor Aldo Rincón conducting fieldwork in the Serranía del Perijá mountain range.
Professor Aldo Rincón conducting fieldwork within the Serranía del Perijá mountain vary.CORTESÍA

Large fossils as an alternative of oil

The story of the invention of Perijasaurus lapaz begins on March 27, 1943. A geologist with the Tropical Oil Firm discovered a heavy and strange-looking bone that didn’t appear to belong to any native fauna. The fossil was unearthed close to a street between the Cesar and Ranchería river basins within the Serranía de Perijá mountain vary. As a substitute of oil, the geologist had discovered a spinal vertebra from a dinosaur, however didn’t realize it. He took the sediment-encrusted fossil to the USA and handed it over to the College of California, Berkeley. Twelve years later, a preliminary analysis examine was printed with the title “A sauropod dinosaur from Colombia” (Journal of Paleontology, 1955). The examine didn’t establish the species, solely that the fossil belonged to a sauropod – a long-necked herbivore – and gave no indication of the fossil’s scientific significance. The fossil was then forgotten for many years.

In 2018, 75 years after the fossil was found, paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson obtained a Fulbright grant to review the fossil with Aldo Rincón and the opposite scientists. They cleaned the bone, eliminated the decades-old plaster and glue, and found components of the vertebra that didn’t appear to belong to a identified species. “We had been capable of higher visualize the fragile bony laminae that related the backbone, the intervertebral joints and the rib joints,” stated Wilson in a press launch issued by the Universidad del Norte.

The scientists then made 3D prints of the fossil and created the three-dimensional mannequin that may be considered on the College of Michigan’s On-line Fossil Repository. However when the scientists found that the fossil had distinctive morphological options not seen in different species, they determined to attempt to pinpoint the placement the place the geologist had discovered the bone.

The previous map

Again in 1943, the Tropical Oil Firm geologists created a hand-drawn map exhibiting the placement and depth at which they discovered the fossil. “We created an overlay of a present map with the previous map to establish the precise place the place the vertebra was discovered,” stated Daniel Raad. “Then we erected a stratigraphic column on the web site to establish the [geological] layer the place the vertebra got here from.” The sediment that remained on the fossil helped them establish the suitable geological layer. “On the web site, we discovered fragments of fossilized leaves and tree trunks, which signifies an setting with excessive preservation potential – in different phrases, the place many fossils are prone to be discovered.”

In accordance with Raad, the fossilized vegetation discovered close to the vertebra revealed that Perijasaurus lapaz “lived in a riparian [adjacent to a body of water] wooded space with low slopes.” Raad and Rincón each highlighted the scientific significance of the discovering – it’s not each day {that a} new dinosaur species is found, particularly in Colombia. The area’s excessive warmth and fixed rain are troublesome situations for fossil preservation. In actual fact, when the massive vertebra was found in 1943, it was the northernmost proof of a sauropod within the Americas, the one one outdoors Patagonia, Argentina. Now, nearly 80 years later, it nonetheless is.

“The significance of discovering a brand new genus and species within the tropics,” stated Rincón, “is that it permits us to raised perceive the origins of sauropods and their ancestors, traces of which have been present in Cretaceous interval rocks in Argentina.” Raad concurs, “The scientific relevance [of this discovery] is that that it helps us perceive how these giant dinosaurs advanced within the little explored tropics.”



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