UNAB Geologist Discovers New Dinosaur in Chile’s Aysén Region

A new dinosaur, Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, was discovered by Dr. Manuel Suárez, director of the geology program at Universidad Andrés Bello. The discovery, published last week in scientific magazine Nature, describes in detail the first dinosaur from the Jurassic period to be found in Chile.

The new species has captured the attention of the scientific world. According to Dr. Fernando Novas, a paleontologist from the Bernardino Rivadavia Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires, “the dinosaur is one of the strangest yet discovered. It is a theropod, like carnivores Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, but has a small head and flat teeth, which means the new dinosaur was an herbivore.”

During a 2004 expedition with his family Dr. Suárez’s son Diego found a strange small bone. “Seeing what Diego found, we realized that it was something that had never before been seen. The rocks where the bones were found dated back to 148 million years ago, the Jurassic period, which we knew meant we were looking at a dinosaur we had not yet seen,” explained Dr. Suárez.

After the discovery, Dr. Suárez called in Leonardo Salgado and Fernando Novas, experts on reptile fossils, to help catalog and review the findings and to continue the search for more information on the dinosaur. Once the experts knew where to look, a zone currently 1,400 meters above sea level, they found plenty of Chilesaurus fossils.

The head of paleontology from the Museum of Natural History in Chile, Dr. David Rubilar-Rogers, remarked that “the enigma surrounding Chilesaurus is that it dates from a part of the Jurassic period when all the continents were part of one mega-continent, Pangea. When a dinosaur is found on one continent, you can generally find them on other continents as well, but no one has ever found this specific dinosaur before.”

Dr. Novas highlighted that “the discovery of Chilesaurus shows that the history of the dinosaurs is much more complex than we can imagine. We don’t have global registers that we can use to see if there were relatives to the Chilesaurus. Our next steps will focus on studying the areas where these fossils were located to see what else we can learn.”