A dinosaur fossil intercepted by Brazil’s Federal Police in Santos, São Paulo, in 2014, was announced this week by Brazilian researchers as the best preserved tapejarid fossil found to date.
The tapejarids lived 145 million to 100.5 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. They could fly, lacked teeth, and are famous for having had a gigantic crest adorning their heads.
The article with the material analysis was published on August 25 in scientific journal Plos One and its first author is University of São Paulo (USP) Paleontology Professor Victor Beccari.
The fossil was among the approximately 3 thousand pieces the Federal Police seized from smugglers in Santos back in 2014. They are usually illegally transported to Europe, the US, and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere.
“The discovery rekindles the discussion on fossil trafficking and the need for fighting the illegal trade of these scientific gems,” Beccari argued.
The specimen comes from the Chapada do Araripe region, located in the Brazilian states of Ceará, Pernambuco, and Piauí in the Northeast of the country, has a wingspan measuring 2.5 meters and a 0.5 meter crest atop its head. The assessment suggests it belonged to an already known species, the Tupandactylus navigans.
“In previous fossils of this species, essentially just the head of was preserved,” said biologist Ivan Nunes Silva Filho, professor at the Litoral Paulista campus of the São Paulo State University (Unesp). “This is the first time a nearly complete fossil is found of the body of one of these animals for investigation in South America,” he added.
According to the scientists, even portions of soft tissues were preserved in the fossilization process, which is extremely rare. The morphological study suggests that, even though the animal was capable of hovering, it was likely not as good at flying up skywards. It most probably spent the majority of the time feeding on the ground.
*With information from Unesp
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