Brazilian scientists announced the discovery of the biggest dinosaur found in Brazil to date. The specimen belongs to a new species of titanosaur, dubbed Austroposeidon magnificus.
The material unearthed as well as a real-size reconstructed arm of the animal will be on display at the Earth Sciences Museum, in Rio de Janeiro.
Taking into account its anatomic features, the animal was approximately 25 meters long, and could be classified as a titanosaur, a herbivore with a well-developed body, long neck and tail, and a relatively small skull.
Found in the 50’s in São Paulo by Llewellyn Ivor Price, one of Brazil’s first paleontologists, the fossil had been kept at the Earth Sciences Museum, in south Rio de Janeiro. Studies did not start earlier for lack of funding, researchers said.
The material was analyzed by scientists at the Earth Sciences Museum and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) National Museum, in addition to Petrobras and the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).
The studies revealed characteristics previously unseen among titanosaurs, like growth rings interposed between samples of a denser bone tissue, whose meaning has not yet been fully grasped by the scientists.
In Brazil, nine species of titanosaurs have been found so far. Before the discovery of the Austroposeidon, Brazil’s biggest dinosaur was the Maxakalisaurus topai, which measured more than 13 meters long.
According to the study, the discovery of the Austroposeidon contributes not only to dinosaurs’ new anatomic and evolutionary data, but also shows that giant species used to rule the country millions of years ago.
The remains of this specimen were collected near the town of Presidente Prudente, in southeast São Paulo state, and its features are similar to those of Argentine species like the also gigantic Mendozasaurus and the Futalognkosaurus.
The discovery is important because it indicates that even larger species may have lived in Brazil, said UFRJ palaeontologists Alexander Kellner.
“Since Price, we’ve always imagined that animals this large existed, but we couldn’t prove it or produce any evidence. Today, we’ve taken this step, and now it’s just natural to say, yes, we can find other, even bigger ones,” he stated.
Scientists say that at their golden era, about 66 million years ago, these dinosaurs reached 25 meters in length. The remains of the largest known dinosaur was discovered in 2014 in Argentina. They had about 40 meters in length.
The first discovery of a burrow dug by a giant sloth (an animal that became extinct thousands of years ago) in the Amazon region was made last year by researchers at the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM).
The cave was not new to local residents in Ponta do Abunã, Rondônia state, but now it has been classified as a “paleo-burrow” (a cave dug by now-extinct animals).
According to geologist Amilcar Adamy, responsible for the discovery, the paleo-burrow is estimated to have existed for at least 10,000 years and is at least 100 meters long. Claw marks suggest it was dug by some large species. “No animals in the current local fauna can excavate like that,” he said.
The site was first visited by the geologists in 2010. According to Adamy, researchers were struck by the cave from the start because of its large, circular/semicircular shape, numerous interconnected tunnels, and length. “You can just stand up there and walk around, no need to bend over except at one point or another,” he said.
With little information to classify the cave, the CPRM team contacted researchers at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), credited with the discovery of dozens of paleo-burrows in South and Southeast Brazil. With support from the two universities, the team was able to establish that the cave was indeed a paleo-burrow.
The area will be surveyed further to look for new burrows and examine the recent finding more in detail. The study is part of the Geodiversity Project Rondônia, which seeks to identify sites for geotourism that can help foster development in the region. When the cave will be open to visitors is still to be decided.
Investment in Science
In July, Brazil’s Secretary of Research and Development Policy and Programs of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC), Jailson de Andrade, said Brazil needs to increase investment in science if it wants to stand out internationally in the field.
“The budget for the [Science] ministry today is still at the same level it was in 2001,” he said at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) in Bahia.
As part of the National Science and Technology Strategy, the MCTIC has set a target of using 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for investment in science, technology, and innovation by 2019.
According to the ministry, this is the minimum ratio that would empower the country to compete with major global players in the sector.
Ministry data for 2013 show that Brazil invests only 1.66% of its GDP in science and technology, which puts the country in 70th place in the Global Innovation Index.
Launched in May, the National Strategy for Science and Technology focuses on 11 key areas: aerospace and defense; water; food; biomes and bioeconomy; social sciences and technologies; climate; digital society and economy; energy; nuclear; health; and converging and enabling technologies.