Buenos Aires. The San Pedro Paleontological Museum, located in the province of Buenos Aires, has a new piece of great historical value, a fossilized tail of a giant armadillo that lived at the end of the Ensenada age, more than 700,000 years ago.
The discovery occurred when the operator Fausto Capre was excavating with his machine about 10 meters deep in a quarry, and he observed an object that caught his attention, to which he called a team of paleontologists who confirmed the nature of the piece , which is about a meter long and weighs 43 kilograms.
Although fossil finds are common in the area, it stands out for its antiquity, for belonging to a time from which many data are unknown about the giant species that inhabited the continent, as is the case of this armadillo, which would have a weight over 1,000 kilograms, 4 meters long and a shell about 5 centimeters thick, which makes it a kind of “living war tank,” as paleontologist José Luis Aguilar told Efe.
A time of giant animals
“Of this period of time, there is really little that is known of many members of the South American fauna that walked through these places, every time you find a fossil from the end of the Ensenada age you always find that these animals have different adaptations (… ) … you see that they are rougher, more corpulent, they have a different gigantism, a greater gigantism ”, said Aguilar, director of the San Pedro Paleontological Museum.
This time is considered the “peak of an evolutionary response”, by which the natural herbivorous animals of South America increased their size to defend themselves against the arrival of new predators from North America when both continents joined between 3 and 4 million years ago. .
“From North America came carnivores such as saber-toothed tigers, wild dogs, felines … a whole host of carnivores that were not in South America that began to prey on those herbivorous animals such as giant sloths (…) . The evolutionary answer is that after a few hundred thousand years these animals start to get bigger as if saying ‘I get bigger so that it is more difficult for you to attack’ ”, he added.
A natural trap
In this same area, several fossils of different animals were found in a reduced space, since in this there was a swamp that acted as a “natural trap” for the animals.
“At the end of this Ensenadense age, all that area was an old swamp, an old wetland, it was like a natural trap, the big bugs came to eat attracted to the pastures or to drink water and they found a very soft floor and ended up sunk and dying in that swamp, it’s like it was a trap that was hunting animals for hundreds of years or thousands, “he stressed.
This fossil was removed from the site by Aguilar and Julio Simonini, another of the team’s paleontologists, and must now be treated to remove the sediment layer that surrounds it, known as tosca, and they hope that once this process is finished, the tail, or flow tube, can be exhibited in one of the museum rooms.
Visitors, who for just over a month were able to re-enter the museum after more than 10 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be able to see one of the oldest fossils in the region.
“Of this particular genre, and from this moment of time, this end of Ensenadense, here in the area there are no pieces, the pieces that have been found correspond to a date between 20 and 40 thousand years, much more modern”, Aguilar concluded.