By Arkady Petrov

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Researchers have found a previously unknown dinosaur species that lived in the northwestern region of the state of Paraná 90 million years ago.

The fossil was found at a paleontological site in Cruzeiro do Oeste by researchers from the State University of Maringá (UEM), the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Paleontological Museum of Cruzeiro do Oeste. The news was announced on Wednesday, June 26th.

Researchers named the newly-found dinosaur species Vespersaurus paranaensis (Photo: Eduardo Cavalari/RPC).
Researchers named the newly-found dinosaur species Vespersaurus Paranaensis. (Photo: Eduardo Cavalari/RPC)

The finding confirms that dinosaurs inhabited the northwestern region of the state at least 30 million years before the extinction of large species. At the time, the area was a desert.

The new species was named Vespersaurus Paranaensis by researchers. The animal was about one and a half meters long, a biped and carnivorous — it fed on other small animals.

“It had a very peculiar feature that was a razor-shaped claw on his foot used to catch small prey. It was a carnivorous animal, small in size, it lived in the desert and had a light skeleton, as birds have nowadays”, explained the researcher Max Langer, from USP of Ribeirão Preto.

Cruzeiro do Oeste is a small town, with a population of approximately 21,000. In the 1970s, farmers in the area found the first fossils.

The samples were kept by the State University of Ponta Grossa (UEPG) and only 40 years later were they examined. In 2014, researchers from Santa Catarina confirmed that the fossils were Pteurosaurs, flying reptiles.

The characteristics of this fossil’s feet helped researchers determine that this dinosaur species is unique in the world. “This species had a very interesting feature; it had a single supporting toe on its paw. So, he moved about the same way as today’s horses, on single toe support. The foot features are unique, no other animal known in the world shares these features; therefore, it was relatively easy to determine that it was a new species,” said researcher Max Langer.

The finding demonstrates that South America and Brazil were also locations where dinosaurs lived, as well as the United States and Europe.

“This is a fantastic finding because it is the first dinosaur ever found and described here in Paraná. Moreover, it is a carnivorous dinosaur, which is a very rare find. For instance, we know that there were many dinosaurs in North America, the United States, Europe, and there are none here. But this research shows that indeed there were, and we are still finding them,” said Renato Pirani Ghilardi, president of the Brazilian Society of Paleontology.

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