Scientists have found well-preserved fossils of a new dinosaur species that lived 225 million years ago in southern Brazil but had its closest relatives in what is now Europe, Brazilian paleontologists said Thursday.
"That sheds light on life on Earth when there was one super-continent here, on migration of dinosaurs across that continent," said Alexander Kellner of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro Federal University.
Luciano Leal, another paleontologist who along with Kellner described Unaysaurus tolentinoi, said the Triassic dinosaur was also "among the oldest finds in the world."
Kellner said the early dinosaur represented a new class and new species as well as the first representative of the prosauropod group ever found in Brazil.
Walked on its hind feet
Unaysaurus tolentinoi was relatively small, measuring 8.2 feet (2.5 meters), walked on its hind feet, as did most early dinosaurs, and was herbivorous.
"We imagined it would be related to dinosaurs from the same group already found in Argentina, but it turns out our dinosaur is more like the European forms," Kellner told Reuters.
"This shows that their migration was much more complicated than initially thought, that they wandered around without much problem. Actually, it creates a problem since it requires a lot of studying and explanation," he said.
Modern Brazil is believed to have been united with southwest Africa before the continents split millions of year ago.
The scientists, who called a news conference to announce the new dinosaur find, said the fossils, especially the skull, were one of the most complete ever found in Brazil.
‘Black Water’ dinosaur
The name Unaysaurus comes from indigenous Indian word "unay" (u-na-hee) in Tupy language, meaning Black Water. Agua Negra (Black Water) is the Portuguese name for the region where the fossils were found.
"We have a tradition of naming dinosaurs in Indian languages and that was their original name for that region," Leal said.
Tolentinoi honors local resident Tolentino Marafiga, who first discovered the fossils cropping out on the side of the road that was being repaired in 1998. Agua Negra is in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul near the Argentine border.
The classic tale "The Lost World" by Scottish author Arthur Conan Doyle is set in a remote part of South America where a scientific expedition finds dinosaurs still roaming an isolated plateau.