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More than thirty new types of dinosaurs have been found, with 1,500 pieces of vertebrate fossils and more than 400 remains of vegetables between 90 and 100 million years old.
Traces of the past appear at every step in the region that holds the largest paleontological collection in South America. Los Barreales lake area, in the Argentinian Patagonia, more than 980 kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires, is home to fossils of all types of life that existed on Earth millions of years ago, a complete petrified ecosystem.
That window is called Proyecto Dino, a scientific camp supported by public and private funds (National University of Comahue and oil) that has just raised its blinds after five years of closure due to conflicts with the indigenous community and financing. More than thirty new types of dinosaurs have been found, with 1,500 pieces of vertebrate fossils and more than 400 remains of vegetables between 90 and 100 million years old.
"This is a dinosaur factory," Jorge Calvo, its director, geologist and paleontologist, jokes.
The geological and geographical conditions of Patagonia facilitate the innumerable findings, among which two of the largest species in the history of the planet stand out: the carnivorous hunter Giganotosaurus carolinii (between twelve and thirteen meters long and almost seven tons) and the Futalognkosaurus dukei herbivore (about thirty-four meters and up to fifty tons).
Calvo explains that dinosaurs saved the town from disappearing when in 1992 hundreds of workers were forced into unemployment, forcing the community to reinvent itself. It went from having 5,000 inhabitants in the seventies to less than fifty that year, according to the official census.
“There the population grew again. The bones were in a club room until the El Chocón museum, the old Hidronor mechanical workshop where Carolini worked, began to be renovated. That is the story of the beginning of paleontology in this area. There the town resurfaced ”, he summarizes.
Another attraction that draws tourists' attention are the footprints, which were discovered in 1991 and date from about 100 million years ago. They seem fresh, as if the animal had fled minutes before. They look so crisp that visitors tend to believe they are fake.
The historian explains that this was an area of lagoons where the animal was going to drink water and left the mark in the clay mud: “The footprint dries with the sun and hardens. When there is a flood, the water does not break it, the cover with sediment and is preserved. If it is a slow flood, it does not erode it. Above the tracks were 1,000 meters of rock covering them. Those 1,000 meters disappeared, eroded and were visible.”
A few steps away, original remains of eggshells (5 millimeters thick) that belonged to a pterosaur, an ancestor of birds, are shown.