13.07.2016

Gualicho, the new carnivorous dinosaur from Patagonia, was introduced

It is a six-meter-long theropod who lived during the Late Cretaceous period in Rio Negro. The discovery team led by paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía was published on the Plos One magazine latest issue.

Juárez, Ceccatto, Apesteguía, Giacchino and Barañao

Juárez, Ceccatto, Apesteguía, Giacchino and Barañao

Dr. Sebastián Apesteguía, a National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) researcher and Head of the Paleontology Area at the Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation introduced the discovery. On this regard, Apesteguía stressed that “Gualicho represents a completely different dinosaur lineage, the first of an unknown lineage hitherto in the Southern Hemisphere”. Likewise, the paleontologist stated that the main question that arises from this discovery “is the kinship since Gualicho has anatomical features of two different groups: the abelisauridae –for its short arms with two fingers- and the carcharodontosauridae, for the rest of its body”.

Apesteguía stressed that “Gualicho represents a completely different dinosaur lineage, the first of an unknown lineage hitherto in the Southern Hemisphere”.

The Minister of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, Dr. Lino Barañao; the head of the CONICET, Dr. Alejandro Ceccatto; the head of the Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation, Adrián Giacchino and Rubén Juárez Valieri, a specialist in carnivorous and ornithischia dinosaurs at the Rio Negro Secretariat of Culture, were present during the announcement. In turn, Barañao stressed the importance of paleontology “as the most attractive view science has to captivate the youngest”, while Ceccatto stressed that Patagonia “is an extraordinary natural laboratory for Argentine paleontologists”.  

The scientific work was published on Plos One, the prestigious scientific magazine, latest issue as “An unusual new two-fingered theropod from Patagonia’s Late Cretaceous”. The discovery is internationally relevant since this dinosaur is not linked to the already known ones. On the one hand, it resembles the African theropod Deltadromaeus in its scapula, femur and fibula from geological layers that appeared in Kem Kem, Niger during the same period. However, both specimens differ in the humerus length and shape.

The Azara Foundation, Maimónides University, the Rio Negro Secretariat of Culture, the Los Angeles County Museum Dinosaur Institute and the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History Earth Science Area were in charge of the research.

It should be noted that with the professionalization of paleontology in Argentina, the Argentine Paleontological Association, the contribution of the National Agency for Scientific and Technological Promotion and the CONICET, an important group of professionals and critics, who improved the quality of work by enhancing the importance that fossil materials reach professional hands, was formed.

Interesting facts about Gualicho

It was discovered by Akiko Shinya, the head of technicians at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, on February 13, 2007. A few days later, one of the two vehicles that participated in the campaign overturned. Due to this fact, the excavation work was interrupted. After some difficulties, the skeleton was collected by the Patagonian Museum of Natural Sciences staff but several circumstances prevented it from being studied up to now.

The name Gualicho refers to the great difficulties they had to overcome in order to recover the skeleton and it also honors the ancient Northern Tehuelche natives watsiltsüm goddess (or Gennakenna), regarded as the owner of animals and wind and materialized on the steppe dust devils. With the arrival of Christianity, the goddess was reinterpreted as an evil entity and today it represents bad luck or a curse. The second name, the species one, honors Akiko Shinya, fossil chief preparator at the Field Museum, for her numerous paleontological contributions.

This dinosaur’s identity is closely linked to the African Deltadromeus’ one. However, this specimen has not been reliably assigned to any of the known theropod groups either since it has mixed features between the two largest carnivorous groups: ceratosaurus and tetanurae. With the latter, Gualicho shares the shape of the hand which is considerably reduced and the third finger is barely preserved  as a bone needle, the same as for megaraptors and tyrannosaurus even though all of them had got it in a parallel and independent way, not inherited by an ancestor in common. Therefore, it is possible that Gualicho is part of the neovenators, a group related to the giant carcharodontosauridae, the largest carnivorous dinosaurs in the Southern hemisphere.

There is an abundance of 90-million-year-old rocks in the discovery area. They are known as Huincul Formation and are from the Late Cretaceous Period, a time when the largest herbivorous dinosaurs in the world, such as the titanosaurs along with the medium-sized rebbachisauridae, the fast iguanodon that escaped from all kinds of carnivorous dinosaurs, from small feathered ones to carcharodontosauridae and, in between, medium-sized theropods such as the abelisauridae and now Gualicho, lived together.

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