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Mexican paleontologists recover the only complete dinosaur tail ever found in Mexico
Paleontologists working in the excavation of a dinosaur tail in Coahuila State. Photo: MAURICIO MARAT/INAH.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

GUADALUPE ALAMITOS.- After 20 days of work in the Coahuila Desert, within the ejido [common land] of Guadalupe Alamitos in the municipality of General Cepeda, paleontologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National University of Mexico (UNAM), with the help of the local authorities, recovered 50 complete vertebras of the only articulate dinosaur tail that has been discovered in Mexico.

In a very slow manner, so as not to break what nature kept intact for 72 million years, paleontologists removed the sedimentary rock that covered the vertebras of the animal and discovered the skeleton of a 5 meters long hadrosaurus tail; the 50 excavated vertebras remain joined together as they were when this dinosaur still inhabited the earth.

Because of recent biology studies it’s known that the dinosaur to which the tail belonged possessed between 50 and 70 vertebras. Along the tail’s skeleton, in the last 20 days of the excavation they have recovered large bones and hip bones. The characteristics of the vertebras and the sacrum have allowed paleontologists to identify the dinosaur as a hadrosaurus or a duck beak with crest, named cientifically as Lambeosaurinae.

All this was informed by Coahuila’s INAH Center paleontologist Felisa Aguilar who leads the excavation along with her UNAM colleague Rene Hernandez; the specialist explained that the tail is equivalent to half the skeleton, which means that it was half of the hadrosaurus’ body was articulately conserved; its full length is calculated to be about 12 meters.

Also, Felisa Aguilar added that in the excavation site they have found other parts of the skeleton, like the limbs’ bones, and they believe that underneath the tail they might find the rest of the skeleton.

Excavation Techniques
The paleontologist Felisa Aguilar informed that the recovery of the hadrosaurus’ skeleton began the 2nd of July; this rescue is one that has required extreme care so as to not lose the bones’ articulation, which is why they have used a paleontological technique known as de cantera. [Literally meaning: “of quarry”].

Said procedure consists in removing the sedimentary rock from the fossils following a horizontal plane by layers; also, while the materials are being released, the context is reviewed.

Also, he added, they made photographic registers of video and drawings during the process so as to not lose any articulation detail. Before the bones are removed, a mold and a trustworthy copy will be made to represent how the organism was placed at the time of death.

It’s worth mentioning that the laboratory (in this municipality) will be open to people of nearby populations so they will know the process of preparation, conservation and identification.

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July 24, 2013

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