Press Release

New Carnivorous Dinosaur Species Found in Argentina

National Geographic Explorer Diego Pol has unearthed a new abelisaurid species, Koleken inakayali, in Patagonia that coexisted with recently discovered titanosaur

Photograph by © Gabriel Diaz Yantén

National Geographic Explorer Diego Pol and a global team of researchers and paleontologists from Argentina, the United States and Hong Kong working in the La Colonia Formation of central Patagonia, have identified a new carnivorous dinosaur species, Koleken inakayali.

The new species is an abelisaurid called, Koleken inakayali, a name that derives from the language of the Tehuelche people of Central Patagonia and refers to the claystone the animal was found in and the Tehuelche leader Inakayal. The dinosaur represents only the second known abelisaurid to have lived in the La Colonia Formation at the end of the dinosaur era in the Late Cretaceous Epoch, around 70 million years ago. This also places Koleken having coexisted with Titanomachya gimenezi, which Pol and his team unearthed last month.

Koleken resembles the iconic “meat bull” Carnotaurus sastrei, the only other abelisaurid known from the La Colonia Formation, which was popularized in the film Jurassic World. However, unlike Carnotaurus, Kotleken is smaller in size and exhibits a unique set of skull features and anatomical differences — most notably, the absence of the massive frontal horns possessed by Carnotaurs.

The team’s research, published today in the journal Cladistics, details their findings which consists of a partial skeleton, including several skull bones, an almost complete series of back bones, a complete hip, several tail bones, and almost complete legs.

Gabriel Lio

“This finding sheds light on the diversity of abelisaurid theropods in Patagonia right before the mass extinction event,” said Explorer Diego Pol. “Our study also analyzes the evolution of abelisaurids and their relatives through time, and identifies pulses of accelerated rates of skull evolution in the Early Cretaceous. It expands what we know about abelisaurids living in this area during the Cretaceous Period and shows that they were more diverse than previously understood.”

Pol’s work is supported by the National Geographic Society and aims to broaden our scientific understanding of dinosaurs and vertebrates that existed throughout Patagonia during the last 15 million years of the Cretaceous Period. His work will also build a database to help researchers identify extinction patterns at the end of the Cretaceous in South America relative to other regions of the world.

“The discovery of Koleken inakayali significantly furthers our collective scientific understanding of the dinosaur era,” said Ian Miller, the National Geographic Society’s Chief Science and Innovation Officer. “The addition of Koleken inakayali to the La Colonia Formation fauna continues to demonstrate that the Formation is amongst the most important end-Cretaceous dinosaur-bearing rock units in the world. Diego and his team of global experts, researchers and lab technicians are bringing to life new insights about this lost world and furthering the National Geographic Society’s work to engage in science and exploration to better understand the wonder of our world and share those findings with the global community.”

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