Crocodile fossil that lived 80 million years ago found in Uberaba – Gerais

(photo: J
(photo: Jlia d’Oliveira/Disclosure)

An important discovery in Uberaba, in the Tringulo Region, in Minas Gerais, adds even more value to scientific research and shows that, in addition to being a reference in zebu cattle, the municipality is the “Land of Dinosaurs”, with international recognition.

Researchers Thiago Marinho, paleontologist, and Luiz Carlos Borges Ribeiro, geologist, from the Federal University of Tringulo Mineiro (UFTM), identified a new genus and species of a small crocodyliform from the upper Creteceous period – approximately 80 million years ago. “This is the first fossil species described for the geological unit called Formao Uberaba, whose occurrence occurs mainly below the urban grid of this municipality”, explains Thiago Marinho.
Named Eptalofosuchus viridi, the crocodile originally with 40 centimeters and an ovor (it fed on small animals and plants) has already won the world in the pages of the scientific publication Cretaceous Research, one of the most important in the field of geosciences.

Also part of the work were researchers Agustn Martinelli, from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Fabiano Iori, from the Museum of Paleontology “Pedro Candolo” in Ucha (SP); Giorgio Basilici and Marcus Vincius Soares, from Unicamp and Andr Marconato, from the University of So Paulo.

According to Professor Luiz Carlos, who works at the UFTM Dinosaur Museum, in Peirpolis, a rural district of Uberaba, the 40-centimeter-long animal lived with giant herbivorous dinosaurs, such as titanosaurs, large predatory dinosaurs such as megaraptors and at least two other species of crocodiles, with carnivorous habits. The name Eptalofosuchus viridi alludes to the nickname Uberaba, “the city of the seven hills”, and the typical greenish color of the Uberaba Formation.

Discovery

The identification of the crocodile is recent, but the find has a long trajectory. The fossil was found in 1966 in a well excavation at a gas station in the southern part of the city, on the margins of the BR-050 highway. Subsequently, the material was delivered to the team of the then National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM), currently the National Mining Agency).

In the same year, the DNPM paleontologist, Llewellyn Ivor Price, received the fossil, which, from then on, was included in the collection of the Earth Science Museum (MCT), in Rio de Janeiro (RJ).

In 2016, paleontologists Thiago Marinho, from the Center for Paleontological Research “Llewellyn Ivor Price” at UFTM and Agustn Martinelli, from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” (Buenos Aires, Argentina), visiting the MCT, identified the small block of greenish rock containing the fossil.

Under loan, the material was taken to Uberaba and then prepared by paleontologist Fabiano Iori, from the Museum of Paleontology “Pedro Candolo” in Ucha (SP). At this stage, says Marinho, it was found that the material was a fragment of the jaw of a small crocodile with some teeth preserved, which had not yet been recorded in this geological formation.

The fate of the fossil, according to Thiago Marinho, is the MCT. “I would love for him to stay in Uberaba, but he doesn’t belong to the university. Our objective is to make a replica, in resin, as well as a tomography, so that everyone can see it up close in the museum”. It is worth remembering that the Dinosaur Museum has been closed to the public since March 2020 due to the pandemine.

Uberaba Formation

Although fossils from the Uberaba Formation have been known for over 70 years, this is the first time that a new species can be described for this geological unit. One of the factors that make collecting fossils in these rocks difficult is due to the fact that the main area of ​​occurrence is just below the city’s urban grid.

Uberaba has municipal legislation that protects the paleontological heritage and it is not rare, according to the researchers, that excavations for civil construction and well openings come across fossils, as was the case with this discovery. According to Thiago Marinho, the dissemination of the results is fundamental for the future of paleontological research in Uberaba: “When the population becomes aware of fossil occurrences, they will certainly pay more attention to the rocks and what new discoveries will emerge.”