Peace accord in Colombia leads to discovery of new dinosaur species

Home » Peace accord in Colombia leads to discovery of new dinosaur species
Peace accord in Colombia leads to discovery of new dinosaur species

Scientists thrive on collaboration — but human conflict can hinder research or prevent it.

In Colombia, paleontologists wanted to return to the site where a dinosaur vertebra was found in the 1940s. But the Serranía del Perijá mountains were ground zero for decades of civil war, making research off-limits.

Now, paleontologists have returned and confirmed the vertebra belonged to a newly identified species of long-necked sauropod. They attribute the find to the nation’s 2016 peace accord.

The peace deal ended conflict between the Colombian government and guerrilla fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The sauropod’s new name bears witness to the discovery’s peaceful origins: Researchers dubbed it Perijasaurus lapaz after the mountainous region and the Spanish word for “peace.”

Perijasaurus was up to 39 feet long and lived in the region about 175 million years ago. The specimen is similar to other, smaller sauropod fossils found in India, northern Africa, Europe and southern South America.

Dinosaur discoveries in northern South America are rare. Perijasaurus is the northernmost sauropod found on the continent.

The unusual story behind a newly identified dinosaur’s name

Its location lends credence to the theory that long-necked dinosaurs dispersed geographically and became more diverse after a major Jurassic era extinction event that occurred when oxygen plummeted in some oceans and the environment changed. Perijasaurus is thought to be an early example of the enormous, long-necked vegetarians’ evolution.

“Without the security conditions provided in the area today, it would have been difficult to return to the field,” Aldo Rincón Burbano, a professor at the Department of Physics and Geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla and one of the study’s leaders, said in a United Nations news release. “This is due to the peace agreement.”

As part of the peace process, the U.N. monitors that the agreement is followed and former FARC members are reintegrated into Colombian life. Félix Arango, a former FARC fighter familiar with the area from his paramilitary days, helped the researchers find the spot where Perijasaurus was first found.

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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