Argentine Dinosaurs Conquer Belgrade 200 million years later

By Dialogo
June 24, 2009

Belgrade, 23 June (EFE).- Were there dinosaurs in what is now Serbia during the Mesozoic? The answer to this question is still a mystery and a challenge for paleontologists, but right now Belgrade is a promised land for those animals that lived more than 200 million years ago in Patagonia. A spectacular exhibition of the giants of Argentine Patagonia seems like a fantasy story come to life in order to show what these animals were like, what kind of environment they lived in, what the earth was like in that distant epoch, why they disappeared, and whether they have descendants in the animal world. The exhibit was organized by the Natural Historic Museum of Belgrade and the Argentine experts Cultural Group, with assistance from the Serbian Ministry of Culture. Twenty species of dinosaurs are on exhibit, half of them in life-size reconstructions, along with forty examples of skeletal parts, skulls, nests with eggs, and replicas of dinosaur tracks and bones. One of the dinosaurs, Megaraptor namunhuaiqui, is getting its world premiere in Belgrade. An impressive carnivore with an enormous pointed claw some forty centimeters long, this dinosaur is one of the most important paleontological finds. The dinosaurs were the largest animals ever to exist on earth and flourished for more than 180 million years during the Mesozoic era and its Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. The planetary scene was very different from that of today. The continents were joined in a single mass, the southern part of which was Gondwana, and the Patagonian region was joined to Southern Africa. Argentine paleontologist Jorge Calvo, one of the organizers of the exhibition, explained to EFE that the environment in which the dinosaurs lived in Patagonia was a plain with a great many forests, a meandering river with wide curves, and a warm, temperate, and humid climate. “It would be like putting dinosaurs in any park in any city today. There were many angiosperms, which are flower plants, and there were almost no pines or conifers,” Calvo said. Major paleontological discoveries have been made in Patagonia in recent decades, and in many cases entire skeletons have been unearthed in an excellent state of preservation. Among the dinosaurs found are giants like Gigantosaurus Carolini, an endemic species in the South American continent, considered the largest carnivorous dinosaur in the world, fifteen meters long and weighing eight tons. Or the herbivore Rebbachisaurus tessonei, the Gigantosaurus’s favorite food, seventeen meters in length, with a very long neck and tail. Not all the dinosaurs were that large, and there were species the size of a dog, a cat, or a bird. The exhibit also includes nests of eggs that have contributed to learning biological facts about these creatures and their reproduction. No other species could compete with the dinosaurs in their time, and although the first diminutive mammals had already begun to appear, their development could advance only after the disappearance of the creatures that ruled the earth during this period of natural history. No human being could ever have seen a living dinosaur, given that the first hominids appeared 60 million years after the dinosaurs disappeared. They disappearance took place possibly due to a natural catastrophe, reminding the visitor to the exhibition of the fragility of the planet’s ecological equilibrium and the effects of its deterioration, which sometimes depends on human activity, but at other times is beyond man’s power to affect. According to the specialist Calvo, there are several theories about the extinction of the dinosaurs, but the prevailing one right now among paleontologists is that it was due to the impact of one or more meteorites in the Yucatan peninsula and in India, as a result of which “the earth was darkened for almost a year.” "And that led to the extinction of plants, then herbivorous dinosaurs, and then the carnivores,” Calvo declared. “Only thirty percent of the small species survived,” he added. Professor Calvo affirmed, nevertheless, that “the dinosaurs are alive today.” "We have many representatives of the dinosaurs, such as birds, which are considered dinosaurs today,” he indicated. In the exhibition there is a small section on “Serbia at the time of the dinosaurs,” with examples of Mesozoic fossils of shells and snails, given that the region was under the ocean at that time.