On July 23rd, a team of paleontologists comprising of experts from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History and students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico excavating in the Chihuahuan Desert, in the northeastern state of Coahuila stumbled upon an exciting and rare discovery - An almost perfectly preserved tail of a dinosaur that inhabited the area, 72 million years ago.
The 16-foot (5 meter) long tail that experts believe was probably half the length of the dinosaur, comprises of 50 complete vertebrae. Found buried under a sedimentary rock, it took the team 20 days to unearth. Scattered beside the tail were other fossil bones, including that of the dinosaur's hip.
Experts believe that the fossils are that of a Hadrosaur, the most populous species of the giant animals that inhabited earth during the Cretaceous period, almost toward the end of the dinosaur era. Also known as Duck-billed dinosaurs due to their tough beaks and mouths that harbored up to 1000 tiny leaf-shaped teeth, the lumbering creatures were gentle giants that grazed on low lying plants. Given that they roamed extensively all around North America, Europe and Asia and were among the last of the dinosaurs, many fossils of the species have been unearthed prior to this. However, finding a perfectly preserved tail of not only this species, but any dinosaur, is a rare event.
The team is now planning to carefully transport the tail bones to the nearby town of General Cepeda where they will clean them up, before conducting research to try gain further insight on diseases that afflicted dinosaurs. Past studies on similar bones has revealed that the giants suffered from human ailments like tumors and arthritis!
Though this is amongst the more exciting discoveries, dinosaur fossil finds are not unusual in Central Northern Mexico. In fact, paleontologists have been able to find remains of even marine dinosaurs, thanks to the fact that 65-million years ago, much of what is now central North Mexico, was on the coast.
Resources: Archeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com, dinosaurs.about.com,dailymail.co.uk, the paelotologyportal.com