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Scientists: Dinosaurs roamed Brazil's Amazon

The Rio de Janeiro Federal University researchers hold some of the fossils they helped discover.
The Rio de Janeiro Federal University researchers hold some of the fossils they helped discover.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) -- Scientists say they have found dinosaur fossils in Brazil's Amazon, calling it the "first proof" that the ancient creatures once roamed the region.

In a statement released this week, the Rio de Janeiro Federal University said its researchers found 110 million-year-old remains of a new genus and species of dinosaur, dubbed Amazonsaurus maranhensis after the state of Maranhao in northern Brazil.

The find confounded the view of many scientists that paleontology research in the Amazon rainforest is fruitless because of the high humidity, which they believe would have caused relatively rapid decay of fossils.

A dinosaur tooth was previously found in the Amazon, but it was not regarded as concrete evidence that dinosaurs once lived there.

The Amazonsaurus, found by Brazilians Ismar de Souza Carvalho and Leonardo dos Santos Avilla and Argentine Leonardo Salgado, belongs to the herbivorous sauropod Diplodocus family. The only sauropods found in Brazil before were Titanosaurs.

Amazonsaurus was about 10 meters (30 feet) long and weighed about 10 tons, making it one of the smallest sauropods. It is also the oldest found in Brazil.

The university said the fossils were found in the "preamazonic transition forest" near the Itapecuru river, along with the remains of other reptiles, mollusks and fish. This allowed the scientists to partly reconstruct the environment in which Amazonsaurus lived.

The researchers said similarities between the "fossil fauna" found in Maranhao and in northwestern Africa backed the theory that South America and Africa were once part of one continent.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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