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Letter from the editor | 279

Brazilian paleontology on the rise

Argentina and Brazil are home to some of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever discovered. With a long history in paleontology, Argentina has thoroughly explored a geological layer in the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja that dates to the first stage of the Upper Triassic period (between 237 million and 227 million years ago), when these creatures first began to inhabit the earth. Six of the 12 dinosaur fossils found in rocks from this period were excavated and described by the region’s local scientific community, together with researchers from abroad.

The first dinosaur of this period found in Brazil, Staurikosaurus pricei, was described in scientific literature in the 1970s; another, Saturnalia tupiniquim, was excavated in the late 1990s. Four more have been found this decade, with the latest announced in January this year: Nhandumirim waldsangae was a small, 1.5-meter long carnivorous biped that lived in what is now the central region of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The number of recent discoveries in Brazil, described in this issue’s cover story, has established the country not only as a “hotbed” of fossils of the earliest dinosaurs—the six found in Brazil were all discovered in the Santa Maria Formation near the city of the same name—but also as home to a high number of paleontologists skilled at finding fossils, describing species, and with help from colleagues in the international scientific community, confirming (or rejecting) hypotheses on the emergence of these animals. The state of Rio Grande do Sul has been systematically studied by researchers from local institutions and others from further afield.


February represented 30 years since State Decree 29.598 was issued by then governor of São Paulo, Orestes Quércia. The decree, which implements article 207 of the Federal Constitution, states that “universities are granted full didactic, scientific, administrative, and financial autonomy.” It applies to USP, UNICAMP, and UNESP and guarantees that each has their own budget. The positive impact of this measure has been reflected in productivity indicators. UNICAMP’s Marcelo Knobel, who was recently appointed chairman of the São Paulo State University Deans Council (CRUESP), believes this autonomy allowed the three universities to grow into some of the best institutions in Latin America. Pesquisa FAPESP will continue to address the topic in future issues.


São Paulo oncologist Drauzio Varella is the best-known physician in Brazil. He started hosting a radio show in the 1980s, then moved into television, where he is watched by millions of people every Sunday night, and now finds himself writing books and weekly newspaper columns, as well as running his own website and YouTube channel. He speaks mainly about health issues—never afraid to address controversial topics—as well as a variety of other subjects. Across this array of media and content, Varella follows one guiding principle: respect for scientific knowledge. His arguments are based on research data and supplemented by the knowledge he has gained from his extensive experience as a physician in both public and private hospitals in São Paulo and in the state prison system, where he has been volunteering for more than 25 years.