The fossils discovered near Villa El Chocón, in Neuquén province, are so important that the area was declared of national historic interest and named “Valle de los dinosaurios” (Dinosaurs’ Valley). In general, the whole province is gradually discovering its fossils (thirty dinosaurs approximately). Million years ago, this region had a less arid weather than today, with shallow lakes; and humid and warm seasons.
The dinosaurs’ valley in Argentina
The richness of paleontological sites in Neuquén province turns it into “the center of paleontology”.
Argentinosaurus Huinculensis is the champion in all categories, the biggest sauropod ever discovered: 21.4 meters tall, 40 m long, and 70-100 tons. Some vertebras are 1.70 m. It was herbivorous and lived 95 million years ago (Cretaceous) near Plaza Huincul, in Neuquén province. Its remains are exhibited in the Carmen Funes Museum of Plaza Huincul (110 km de Neuquén).
The biggest carnivorous fossil was discovered by an amateur, Rubén Carolini, in 1993 near Villa El Chocón, in Neuquén province. Giganotosaurus Carolinii is preserved under perfect conditions and 80% intact. It was 14 m tall, with a 2 m head and its longest teeth of 21 cm. Its weight was 8 tons. Bigger but lighter than the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Giganotosaurus (“giant southern lizard”) lived in the region 100 million years ago (Cretaceous). Titanosaurus fossils were found close to that region, what leads to presume that the Giganotosaurus hunted these herbivorous that were bigger than it. The remains of this giant may be found in the Carmen Funes museum.
Carnotaurus Sastrei, with 10 m long and 4 m tall, was one of the most impressive carnivorous, with horns and atrophied forelimbs. Its name means “carnivorous bull”. It lived in the Patagonia 70 million years ago. It belongs to the theropod’s family; it has no plumage but a kind of scales.
Its biped cousin Aucasaurus lived in the same period. An almost intact skeleton was found in 1999 near the Auca Mahuida Volcano, northeast from the Neuquén province.
Found in 1988 in Villa El Chocón (Neuquén), Rebbachisaurus Tessonei is unique since it is the most complete fossil in South America. Herbivorous, with 17 m and 10 tons. It may be seen in the paleontology museum of the University of Comahue.
More recently, the Megaraptor namunhuiquii was discovered near Los Barreales lake, also situated in Neuquén province: It is the carnivorous dinosaur with the largest claws, 70 cm! It is closely related to the Neuquenraptor, but bigger: 8 m long and 3 m tall. The Paleontology Center Lago Barreales (Universidad nacional del Comahue) also operates as museum. It is the only paleontology excavation work open to the public. The investigations began in 2002, and more than 1,000 pieces were discovered.
One of the sauropods discovered in Barreales, Futalognkosaurus dukei was 36 m long and weighed 80 tons. Its skeleton is 70 % intact, what makes it the most complete dinosaur in this specie.
The Discovery of Neuquenraptor argentinus in 1996 in Sierra de Portezuelo confirmed the theory that dromaeosauridae lived in South America, far from other continents at that time. Neuquenraptor, with 80 millions of age, is a cousin known as velociraptor, a small bipedal predator, very fast and with claws to catch and tear to pieces its preys. Neuquenraptor was 2.5 m long, 83 cm tall and weigh 30 kg.
Finally, the Amargasaurus is one of the strangest dinosaurs, discovered in 1991 near La Amarga. It sported two parallel rows of tall dorsal spines. It was herbivorous and lived 130 million years ago.
Trelew not only offers one of the most beautiful photographic safaris with the sight of whales and sea lions in the Península Valdés, but also offers the view of the largest vertebrates on Earth. The Egidio Feruglio Paleontology Museum offers a remarkable exhibition dating back, with microorganisms, to the origins of life up to the appearance of men in the Patagonia, 10,000 years ago. There are more than 1,700 fossils and 30 dinosaurs exhibited.
– Geologic and Paleontologic Museum of the National University of the Comahue : Av Argentina 1400, Neuquén Capitale
– Municipal Museum of Plaza Huincul Carmen Funes : Calle Córdoba n°55, Ruta Nacional 40 y Ruta Provincial 7, Plaza Huincul (Neuquén)
– Paleontologic Center Los Barreales : Av. Megaraptor 1450, Proyecto Dino, Ruta Provincial 51, km 65, Province de Neuquén
– Paleontologic Museum Egidio Feruglio of Trelew : Av. Fontana 140, Trelew (Chubut)