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New dinosaur species discovered in Venezuela

Staff writer ▼ | October 17, 2014
A new dinosaur has been discovered in Venezuela and it's vicious, which is probably to be expected if it is indeed the Tyrannosaurus rex's predecessor.
Tachiraptor admirabilis
Uncovering new dinosaurs is truly exciting but the discovery in Venezuela is even more notable because they are rare in the country and the rest of northern South America. The study detailing the discovery was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

The new dinosaur is called Tachiraptor admirabilis, taking its first name from Táchira, the state in Venezuela where it was discovered, and Raptor, the Latin for "thief." Its second name, on the other hand, came from the "Admirable Campaign" by Simón Bolívar. Back in 1813, the area around the dig site had a strategic role in the independence leader's efforts at breaking his country away from Spanish rule. More fondly (or not) though, the dinosaur is referred to as the Thief of Táchira.

According to Max Langer, lead author for the study, the Tachiraptor was a predator that preyed upon any smaller animal it could find. As the only other dinosaur found in the area was about half the size of the Tachiraptor, it is suspected that the Laquintasaura is a staple in the new dinosaur's diet.

Researchers were able to identify the Thief of Táchira from two bones: a partial hip bone and a nearly complete shinbone with multiple fractures. Using what they have, they were able to estimate that the Tachiraptor grew to around 4.9 to 6.5 feet.

Radiometric dating using tiny crystals found within the rocks in the dig site estimates the dinosaur bones to be about 200 million years old, placing the Tachiraptor in the early Jurassic period or right after the Triassic period ended with mass extinction.

Having survived an extinction event that wiped out about 84 percent of all species which included many other dinosaur groups is a testament to how hardy the Tachiraptor is.

While being bigger than other dinosaurs was an advantage, the Tachiraptor may have also thrived because it lived within a hospitable belt of land that was humid and tropical. Rivers were also nearby so the Thief of Táchira would have everything it would need.

Are there other dinosaurs to be discovered in Venezuela?

It's possible, but Langer attributes the small number of discoveries in the country to the just as small number of paleontologists researching the area. Without many exposed areas, finding fossils are harder, which would explain why just two dinosaurs have been discovered in Venezuela so far.


 

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