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A fossil foot has been found of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago

Fossilized foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago is identified as belonging to a new species that may be a precursor to today’s birds

  • The specimen was found in 2008 in the Pedra Branca mine in the Brazilian state of Ceará
  • The extraction and preparation of the fossil was complex and took a total of 12 years
  • A carnivore, ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ was probably 5.3 stones and 10 feet tall
  • Like all bird-like theropods, the dinosaur was three-toed and had hollow limbs

The fossilized foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago has been identified as belonging to a new species of bird precursor.

The carnivore – also known as ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ – was excavated from a layer of dark slate in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará by a local resident in 2008.

Experts believe the dinosaur died young, but probably already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have been more than 10 feet (3 meters) long.

A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod – the group of birdlike dinosaurs characterized by their three-legged limbs and hollow bones.

The discovery of the new species could help scientists better understand the evolutionary history of this carnivorous dinosaur group.

The fossilized foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago (depicted in this artist's impression) has been identified as belonging to a new species of bird precursor

The fossilized foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago (depicted in this artist’s impression) has been identified as belonging to a new species of bird precursor

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará by a local resident. Depicted, the fossilized foot bones of the newly identified dinosaur species

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará by a local resident. Depicted, the fossilized foot bones of the newly identified dinosaur species

The carnivorous reptile – called ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ – was excavated from a layer of dark shale in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará by a local resident. Depicted, the fossilized foot bones of the newly identified dinosaur species

“Within theropods, we discovered that Aratasaurus is part of a group called Coelurosauria,” said paper author and paleontologist Juliana Manso Sayão of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Deutsche Welle.

This group, she added, “includes both the Brazilian dinosaur found in the same region known as Santanaraptor, the famous Tyrannosaurus and velociraptors, and even the birds we know today.”

The analysis of Dr. However, Sayão and colleagues have suggested that Aratasaurus dinosaur ancestry may go back even further than T. rex.

“Aratasaurus indicates that some of its rich history may lie in northeastern Brazil and South America,” said Dr. Sayão to Deutsche Welle.

“There are still many gaps to be discovered in this evolutionary puzzle, but with this discovery we have added another piece to understand.

According to the researchers, the extraction process of the fossil from the fragile surrounding rock matrix was a complex process – and took a total of 12 years.

The team performed microscopic analyzes of tissue taken from small samples of the fossil bone, allowing them to form a “visual construct” of the animal.

Experts believe the dinosaur died young, but probably already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have been more than 10 feet (3 meters) long. Depicted, the fossilized second (left) and third (right) toe bones of Aratasaurus museunacionali

Experts believe the dinosaur died young, but probably already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have been more than 10 feet (3 meters) long. Depicted, the fossilized second (left) and third (right) toe bones of Aratasaurus museunacionali

Experts believe the dinosaur died young, but probably already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have been more than 10 feet (3 meters) long. Depicted, the fossilized second (left) and third (right) toe bones of Aratasaurus museunacionali

A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod - the group of birdlike dinosaurs characterized by their three-legged limbs and hollow bones. Shown here, the femur and tibia bones of the specimen seen here prior to extraction from the surrounding rock and preparation

A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod - the group of birdlike dinosaurs characterized by their three-legged limbs and hollow bones. Shown here, the femur and tibia bones of the specimen seen here prior to extraction from the surrounding rock and preparation

A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod – the group of birdlike dinosaurs characterized by their three-legged limbs and hollow bones. Shown here, the femur and tibia bones of the specimen seen here prior to extraction from the surrounding rock and preparation

“Within theropods, we discovered that Aratasaurus is part of a group called Coelurosauria,” paper author and paleontologist Juliana Manso Sayão of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro told Deutsche Welle. Depicted, the femur and tibia of the specimen after extraction

Fortunately, in 2018, the copy avoided disaster when another part of the museum it was stored in was destroyed by fire.

Researchers presented the newly identified fossil A. museunacionali specimen to the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro on July 10.

The full findings of the study are published in the journal Scientific reports.

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, depicted in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, depicted in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

The carnivorous reptile – called ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ – was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, depicted in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

The carnivorous reptile - called 'Aratasaurus museunacionali' - was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

The carnivorous reptile – called ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ – was excavated from a layer of dark shale by a local resident, in the Pedra Branca mine in the state of Ceará.

HOW THE DINOSAURS PERFORMED AROUND 66 MILLION YEARS AGO

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly dying out.

The Cretaceous Tertiary Extinction is the name given to this mass extinction.

For years it was believed that the changing climate destroyed the food chain of the huge reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a low iridium.

This is an element rare on Earth but found in large quantities in space.

When this was dated, it coincided exactly with the moment when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.

A decade later, scientists discovered the huge Chicxulub crater on the tip of the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula, which dates back to that period.

Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are interrelated and likely both were caused by a massive asteroid crashing to Earth.

With the projected size and impact speed, the collision would have caused a huge shock wave and likely caused seismic activity.

The fall would have created plumes of ash that probably covered the entire planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive.

Other animals and plant species had a shorter time between generations that allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to the cause of the famous animals’ deaths.

One early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs, and another argues that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.

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