HOUSTON — An Exxon Mobil shale gas project in Argentina had to be diverted when a road construction crew struck dinosaur bones of titanic size.
Preparing to explore for natural gas in western Argentina last spring, Exxon uncovered fossils from a herd of Titanosaurus Sauropods, a broad category of some of the largest creatures to ever roam Earth. The fossils date to the late Cretaceous period, about 66 million to 100 million years ago.
The discovery was made in the enormous Vaca Muerta Shale, a promising region that has touched off the South American country’s own shale boom.
The region is known for being rich not only in oil and gas, but in dinosaur skeletons, as well.
A team of paleontologists descended on the field for a two-week dig in November and a larger group will return next month. They found Titanosaurus vertebrae, feet, hip, neck, and thigh bones. Exxon said the team also made a rare discovery of a Teropoudus skull, a carnivorous, bipedal dinosaur.
Despite the intimidating name, Titanosaurus Sauropods were herbivores. Adding to the mystique, they share a name with an aquatic nemesis of Godzilla that appeared in the 1975 Japanese film Terror of Mechagodzilla. But the real Titanosauruses, a catch-all designation for a family of heavy-weight dinos, were land dwellers who walked on four legs.
An Exxon Mobil spokesman said the company has provided materials and services for the team of four paleontologists, two assistants and a photographer.
“ExxonMobil has diverted our operations to ensure the integrity of the dig site and has funded the first phase of paleontological work,” said Tomas Hess, ExxonMobil Argentina’s public and government affairs manager. “Currently, the team is finishing its cleaning of the fossils and comparing the results to other fossils at the museum in Rincon de los Sauces as well as other nearby museums.”
The paleontologists plan to expand their excavation region in the Bajo del Choique and La Invernada blocks of the Vaca Muerta. The finds will be presented at the Argentina Paleontological Symposium in May, according to Exxon Mobil.
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