Aysén, Chile, Feb 24 (EFE).- Diego Suárez was seven years old when he discovered one of the strangest and most interesting dinosaurs in the world: the Chilesaurus.
The boy had accompanied his parents, two renowned geologists, to Mallín Grande, a mountain town in the Chilean Patagonia, for a research project.
“Diego was obsessed with dinosaurs and played with cow bones as if they were Diplodocus bones. That day he hit a rock and several fossils jumped out. That’s how it all started,” his father, Manuel Suarez, tells Efe.
The material was then sent to Argentina where Fernando Novas, a paleontologist at the Museum of Natural Sciences of Buenos Aires, kicked off a research project that would last years.
Eleven years later, in 2015, the Chilesaurus was featured on the cover of the prestigious Nature journal for having radically changed what we know about the evolution of dinosaurs.
“It is an icon of local, national and global paleontology. The British themselves described the discovery as the most important of the last 100 years,” Gustavo Saldivia, director of the Aysén Regional Museum, where a replica of the specimen and the original humerus and finger claws are on display, tells Efe.
Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, named in honor of the young paleontologist, is so far the only species discovered that has features from the two main groups of dinosaurs: theropods (two-legged and carnivorous) and the sauropodomorphs (long-necked and herbivorous).
Dating back 148 million years, it is one of the oldest dinosaur species found in South America and it lived at the end of the Late Jurassic period and beginning of the Cretaceous.
A joint Patagonian expedition of Chilean and Argentine scientists in July 2021 came across the ancestor of modern crocodiles Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, one of the few crocodiles that inhabited the mainland alongside the dinosaurs.
“The south of Chile is yielding the most important dinosaurs of this century but we have hardly any resources. If more money were allocated, what other surprises could Aysén and Magallanes have in store for us?” said Saldivia, whose museum this year has been nominated for the Leading Culture Destinations Berlin Awards. EFE