Category Archives: ARGENTINA

The first dinosaur remains from the Cretaceous of Ecuador

A Titanosaur in Ecuador? New Dinosaur Discovered!

Ecuador has found the fossils of a previously unknown titanosaurus. The medium to small-sized dinosaur lived 85 million years ago, during the Upper Cretaceous period.

The remains have been found in the province of Loja at the southern end of the country. It is the first time in the history of dinosaur fossils and the northernmost example of its sauropod subfamily to date have been found.

The fossils of the titanosaur, called Yamanasaurus lojaensis, are the first of their kind and were discovered by a farmer in rocks of the Río Playas Formation in the Yamana parish. According to a report in El Universo , the fossils were passed along until they eventually became state property.

In August 2018, Argentinian paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía of the University Maimónides was called in by professors John Soto, José Tamay, and Galo Guamán at the Technical University of Loja (UTPL) to give a conference and provide an expert’s opinion on the fossils.

Apesteguía told El Universo that he was asked to verify if the fossils came from a dinosaur and if he could tell the professors anything about the long -extinct creature . He could and did.

“It was a shock” Apesteguía said “the material they showed me was incredible because it is clearly the last two sacral vertebrae of a titanosaur.

Later my colleague Pablo Gallina and I were able to find out exactly what kind of titanosaur, but at that moment there was no doubt in my mind that it was a medium to small sized dinosaur.”

A paper on the discovery in Cretaceous Research states that altogether the Yamanasaurus lojaensis fossils include “a partial sacrum, a partial mid-caudal vertebra, and several associated limb bones” and the “Morphology, size, and age suggest that Yamanasaurus is closely related to Neuquensaurus, being the northernmost known by far.”

Image demonstrating the recently identified titanosaur’s size in comparison to a female adult and the fossils that were found (in red).

Technical processes were then carried out in Loja and analyses of the results in Buenos Aires . When the vertebrae were examined, the experts were able to make a particularly useful find – not the presence of chambers, which are more commonly found in a saltasaurus titanosaur (a titanosaurid sauropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period with fossils found in Argentina), but a texture that was more sponge like.

This means that the animal was more similar to a Neuquensaurus australis (a genus of saltasaurid sauropod dinosaur that is from the same period but has left fossils in both Argentina and Uruguay).

And with this information in hand, Apesteguía told El Universo that the image of what the dinosaur looked like became clear:

“The comparison of the vertebrae, especially the caudal [tail] vertebrae of the Neuquensaurus, to the Patagonian saltasaurus, they have exactly the same form and size.

That means the animal is identical to Neuquensaurus, including the internal structure of the bones. So, it wasn’t necessary to invent much.

It’s pretty much placing the parts we have of the Yamanasaurus on the skeleton of a Neuquensaurus. It’s really rather simple. They are practically identical.”

Analysis of one of the vertebrae.

The researchers believe that the titanosaur was an herbivore that likely ate from smaller trees. But what does Apesteguía mean when he says that Yamanasaurus lojaensis is a medium to smaller-sized dinosaur? In this case, it refers to a creature that measured approximated six meters (19.69 ft.) long, was robust, and had a protective shell, according to El Comercio .

Its skin was also probably covered with tiny bones to provide further protection from predators. The reconstruction of Ecuador’s first known dinosaur was created by Argentinian paleoartist Jorge González.

An artistic representation of the Yamanasaurus lojaensis.

Apart from being Ecuador’s first known example of dinosaur fossils, the significance of this discovery has a wider reach. Apesteguía told El Universo that the find provides another detail on the knowledge of dinosaurs that lived in the region, “It’s the first in Ecuador and scientifically it’s the most northern, most boreal, example of a saltasaur that we have found.

Until now, the most northern was in the north of Argentina. But suddenly there’s a jump and we find the same type of animal from the same time period in Ecuador.”

Experts are aware that the lucky discovery of the titanosaur fossils may mean there are more to find in the area, so they’re already planning for a search, according to El Universo.

But there are very real concerns that if the proper authorities don’t act quickly they may lose out to others finding fossils and selling them on the black market before the experts even start their search.

Reconstruction of the titanosaur.

The mummified corpse of ‘magical’ baby boy who died 50 years ago attracts thousands of pilgrims

The mummified corpse of ‘magical’ baby boy who died 50 years ago attracts thousands of pilgrims

There are thousands of pilgrims hundreds of miles traveling to visit the tiny body of Miguel Ángel Gaitán, Spanish for “Miracle Child”. “El Angelito Milagroso.”

Fifteen days prior to his first birthday in 1967, Miguel died of meningitis. Seven years ago, however, he apparently returned from beyond the grave seven years later and refused to go back – so his family members displayed their wrinkled corpse to worshippers to visit. 

A young boy poses with Miguel

El Angelito was buried where he was born in Banda Florida, a small town in the northwest of Argentina.

But seven years later something odd began to happen when the boy’s grave and the coffin would often be found open – with objects and pieces of a stone thrown all around it.

The cemetery janitors initially blamed violent rainstorms that were battering the city at the time.

But the mysterious happenings continued even after the weather improved.

Pilgrims leave flowers, pictures, and toys around Miguel

The boy’s mother said: “We would even put stones and other objects over the cover – but every morning we’d find it open.

“We then figured Miguelito did not want to be covered – he wanted to be seen.”

Villagers moved the coffin out in the open – but then the coffin’s lid kept being removed.

Interpreting the bizarre phenomenon as a further sign Miguel wanted to be seen, the family moved him to a coffin with a glass lid.

Even after almost 50 years, Miguel’s tiny wrinkled corpse is still incredibly well-preserved.

The child’s body quickly became a local attraction and rumours began to spread far and wide about his supposed magical powers.

For decades now thousands of Argentinians from across the country have descended on the remote town to seek a miracle.

One man – Daniel Saavedra – went to visit El Angelito when he fell ill with a rare pancreatic disease and within weeks he made a full recovery – he claims.

While some people believe touching the mummy’s forehead can help them, others just come to see the peculiar situation and hear the story.

Many of the visitors leave toys and flowers at the tomb.

Meet The Megatherium: The Adorable 13-Foot Sloth That Ruled The Prehistoric Amazon

Meet The Megatherium: The Adorable 13-Foot Sloth That Ruled The Prehistoric Amazon

An artist’s rendering of a now-extinct Megatherium.

The year is 9,000 B.C. Humongous cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, and massive-antlered Irish elk roam the grasslands and forests of South America, but the biggest of all is the Megatherium, an elephant-sized ground sloth.

The Megatherium was one of the largest ground mammals ever to have existed. The Megatherium dominated the continent’s southern grasslands and lightly forested areas and was something of a king of the mammals for thousands of years before a mass extinction event wiped it from the planet.

Or did it?

Rediscovering The Megatherium

It would not be until 1788 that the Megatherium would be seen again after the mass extinction event that wiped out pre-historic animals like the wooly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, too.

It was then that an archaeologist named Manuel Torres discovered a rare fossil specimen on the banks of the Luján River in eastern Argentina. Though he did not immediately recognize it, he deemed it worth further study and sent it back to his base of study at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (The Spanish National Museum of Natural History) in Madrid, Spain. There, it was assembled into its most likely arrangement and mounted for display. A museum employee also created a thorough sketch of the animal to further study it.

The original specimen found by Manuel Torres on display in Madrid.

Before long, the fossil caught the eye of esteemed French paleontologist Georges Cuvier. Cuvier was intrigued by the sketch of the creature and used it to further explore its anatomy and taxonomy, and over time, he managed to create a more complete picture of the Megatherium’s history. In 1796, just eight years after the Megatherium had been discovered, Cuvier published the first paper on it.

In this paper, Cuvier theorized that the Megatherium was a giant sloth, perhaps an early ancestor of the modern equivalent. Initially, he believed that the Megatherium used its claws to climb trees as modern-day sloths did. However, he later amended his theory and hypothesized instead that the sloth was much too large to climb trees and likely used its claws to dig subterranean holes and tunnels.

With this explanation, a picture of the Megatherium as it existed began to form; a sloth the size of an elephant, with giant, powerful claws, that lived mostly on and under the ground. With further study, scientists began to discover its habitat, diet, and reproductive cycle, and the picture became ever clearer.

The Megatherium likely lived across the continent of South America, from southern Argentina all the way to Colombia. Full grown, individual creatures likely weighed upwards of four tons — the weight of the average male elephant — making it the largest land mammal second only to the wooly mammoth. It probably walked most of its life on four legs, though it is believed that it could stand on its hind legs in order to reach treetops and high foliage to feed its herbivorous diet. When it stood, the Megatherium would have been upwards of 13 feet tall.

Due to its immense size, it’s likely that Megatherium moved slowly like the sloths of today. It was likely one of the slowest creatures in its environment. In looks, it was quite similar to the modern sloth, though with facial characteristics of another one of its descendants, the anteater. In fact, it was in part Megatherium’s resemblance to more modern creatures that got Darwin thinking about his theory of evolution.

The Megatherium lived in large groups, though individual fossils have been found in isolated locations such as caves. It gave birth to live young, as most other mammals do, and likely continued living in familial groups while their young matured. Due to the lack of predators – they outweighed (and could likely kill) saber-toothed cats and other small carnivores – they lived a quiet and probably diurnal lifestyle.

Further, the Megatherium wasn’t much of a picky eater. The gigantic herbivores didn’t have to compete with smaller mammals for food as they had the advantage of height and procuring food from distances that smaller mammals simply couldn’t. They could tolerate and adapt to various types of plants as well as allegedly nibble on the occasional carcass, which allowed the Megatherium to migrate and thrive all over the continent — for 5.3 million years.

So what, or perhaps who, led to this resilient mammalian force’s extinction?

Another artist rendering of two Megatherium.

Extinction And Possible Survival

In roughly 8,500 B.C., the earth experienced a “Quaternary extinction event” during which most of the earth’s large mammals disappeared.

The Irish elk and saber-toothed tiger went extinct during this time as well as mammoths within the confines of continents, as some survived for several thousand more years in remote island areas. And, of course, the Megatherium went extinct during this time as well. These giant ground sloths were thought to have survived in more remote areas for at least another 5,000 years following this extinction, though.

Scientists are still not entirely sure what accounts for this mass extinctionas it does occur simultaneously with glacial-interglacial climate change. Instead, the extinction of the Megatherium seems more to have been the work of the emergence of mankind. Indeed, Megatherium fossils have been found with cut marks on them, suggesting that they were hunted by humans. Whatever the reasons for their disappearance, scientists have long believed that the elephant-sized sloths have been out of commission for at least 4,000 years.

However, rumors of giant sloths living deep in the jungles of South America have emerged. Those who live in and around the Amazon rainforest have long passed down stories of a dangerous beast they call the “mapinguari,” a giant sloth-like creature who is over seven feet tall, with matted fur and large, sharp claws. They claim it tramples foliage and brush and roars out of a giant, second mouth on its stomach.

Stomach-mouth aside, the description of the mapinguari is actually quite similar to descriptions of the Megatherium, and indeed several drawings of the mapinguari are hard to discern from those of the Megatherium. Some experts have theorized that the initial mapinguari sightings many years ago may, in fact, have been Megatherium that survived extinction by sequestering themselves within the shelter of the rainforest.

Artist’s rendering of what the giant sloth-like mapinguari could have looked like.

As many theorize that the mass extinction event was, in part, caused by a human invasion of their habitat, it would make sense that some could survive by avoiding populated areas. If the Megatherium truly did evade extinction, then the modern-day interpretation of the mapinguari is most likely an exaggerated report blown out of proportion through a generations-long game of telephone.

However, it could always be the case that the Megatherium truly did go extinct all those years ago and that the mapinguari, with its fetid breath and giant stomach-mouth, is truly roaming the Amazon and we are all in terrible danger.