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Tapuiasaurus macedoi

Titanosaur in Minas Gerais

Skull of T. macedoi: a rare find in northern Minas Gerais

MZUSP Skull of T. macedoi: a rare find in northern Minas GeraisMZUSP

Discovered in 2005 in the municipality of Coração de Jesus, in northern Minas Gerais State, and reported in 2011, Tapuiasaurus macedoi earned the title of first and oldest titanosaur in South America, following a new description of a fairly well preserved skull and comparative analyses performed by researchers from Brazil, the United States and Argentina (Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, March 2016). The titanosaur group is one of the most diverse among dinosaurs, but only 3 of the 70 genera have complete skulls like that of T. macedoi. Furthermore, most of the skull fragments are from more recent titanosaurs, from the Late Cretaceous Period. A team led by biologists Hussam Zaher of the University of São Paulo and Jeffrey Wilson of the University of Michigan in the United States found unique features in the skull of T. macedoi, such as the shape of the teeth, and concluded that the animal—named after Ubirajara Alves Macedo, a non-academic researcher in the region—was one of the most primitive of the group. T. macedoi is thought to have lived 125 million years ago during the Lower Cretaceous, around the same time as other primitive (or basal) titanosaurs, whose fossils have been found in present-day Thailand and Laos in Asia, and Malawi in Africa. Its skull is elongated like that of a horse, with nostrils at the top. The shape of the teeth indicates that the animal—a herbivore estimated to have been 13 meters long, 4 meters tall and weighing 10 tons—likely ate leaves that it plucked off tree branches.