Chile dinosaur’s fossil may be best ancestor to Velociraptor found yet

The Stegomastodon horny parrot was a 245-pound dinosaur whose tail was a sauropod-like weapon. Members of the same family as Velociraptor & T. rex had soft tissues and muscles of the kind discovered on Brontosaurus, Shaheen/Deinoniae aegyptiaca’s.” — zhang shiang (@zhangqianwang) November 25, 2017

An Asian great horned dinosaur that lived about 76 million years ago in southwestern Chile may be the best ancestor to modern dinosaur killer Velociraptor discovered to date, scientists said Wednesday.

Scientists announced the discovery of the giant Stegomastodon fossil in Patagonia, Latin America, in a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, part of the British scientific journal’s Research Series Science.

Stegomastodon palaeontologists have previously examined a collection of fossils at the Patagonian Museum in Potosí, Chile, known as the Nicolas Fossil Site. The bones there show the remains of a variety of dinosaur species, including a 120-million-year-old carnivore.

The new dinosaur, the largest the researchers analyzed to date, would have shared most of its evolutionary lineage with Velociraptor but had different proportions.

“It was a 245-pound dinosaur with soft tissues and muscles of the kind found on Brontosaurus, Shaheen/Deinoniae aegyptiaca’s,” study co-author Eamonn Brennan, a paleontologist at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, said in a news release.

The Italian team, led by Andrea Ghezzi, a palaeontologist at the University of Istituto Benerelli in Rome, found the fossils on cliffs and exposed desert sediments along the Argentine-Chilean border.

The study authors concluded the dinosaur would have been scavenged by the fauna of the area, including the asiatic herbivore Velociraptor, the best dinosaur pre-fossil to date.

The new dinosaurs, with features of armoured lifeforms common to the family, appear to be missing the pigment called melanosomes that are active in much younger dinosaurs such as the species that researchers studied, they said.

The fossils include the skull, the body, the lower jaw, the neck and the tail. The tail was likely used to attract predators, the scientists said.

Ghezzi called the discovery of the animal “a body blow.”

“Not only is this dinosaur its greatest ancestor in terms of its mass and three-dimensional combination of body, vertebrae and soft tissues, but the specimen also has distinct features not found in any other dinosaur before this time,” he said.

“It looks like a big member of the group that includes Velociraptor and Shaheen/Deinoniae aegyptiaca, but it doesn’t belong to this family like the other examples on the list.”

The largest-sized dinosaurs have been reported to date to come from the Lupercalia, a large group of animals including Tyrannosaurus rex. That group is generally considered to have thrived during the Mesozoic Era that extended from about 56 to 65 million years ago.

As for Velociraptor, the authors pointed out that its numbers are estimated to be around 100,000, a number that still might seem modest.

But the Argentina-based Vulcanosaurus consortium, which is an unofficial collective of dinosaur researchers, puts Velociraptor’s estimated size at about 12 feet long and 2 feet thick.

Velociraptor was believed to have lived in the late Cretaceous Period, which is generally considered to have been from about 130 to 65 million years ago.

These high-risk species of cetaceans were the prey of a widespread and invasive carnivorous plant eaters. As with velociraptor, the smaller flying mammals with wings may be extinct right now if nothing can be done to restore the ecosystem.

“We still have until the end of the century to do something about the natural collapse of our oceans,” Bob Baker, from the UK-based research project Great Barrier Reef, said in a written statement.

The Great Barrier Reef is a large-bodied mammal-eating fish called the Diprotodon phaliganae living off a reef off the Queensland coast, in Australia. The Australian government has officially declared the Great Barrier Reef on the verge of collapse.

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