Today we went to the area around the town of El Chocon, where numerous fossils have been found. First we visited the Museo Ernesto Bachmann, where the original fossil skeleton of Giganotosaurus is housed and on display. This is THE most complete giant carnivorous dinosaur skeleton ever found in the southern hemisphere. It consists of almost the whole skull, vertebral column, shoulder blade, hip and hind limb, except the front limb and feet are missing. The skeleton is laid out in a nice display, with a walkway surrounding it so visitors can get take in its massive size. Thanks to our hosts, we were allowed to film the skeleton up close.
The village overlooks a man-made lake, which is surrounded by desert scrub land and outcropping rocks from the Cretaceous period. The views were breathtaking, with the red rocks meeting the blue water. The skeleton of Giganotosaurus was found only 13 kilometers away from the town, and other dinosaur discoveries, including the spectacular skeleton of the abelisaur Skorpiovenator, have been made within 3 kilometers of the museum.
The South American dinosaur fossil record is not limited to just bones. Trace fossils, like footprints are also common. Our last stop of the day was at a track site on the shores of the lake. There are several trackways in the red rocks, which include some very well preserved footprints of a large carnivorous dinosaur, possibly even Giganotosaurus. The prints show exactly where the animal moved during a short moment in time, over 90-million years ago. You can see where the soft mud was pushed up from around the foot as the animal stepped down. Footprints like these give direct evidence of an animals movements and behavior, and can tell us things about the biology of dinosaurs in ways that the bones simply cannot. This is the first time I have seen such well-preserved trackways exposed for a long distance at the surface. You could literally walk with the dinosaur, step by step, as it did in the Cretaceous. It was a thrill for me, and a great end to a productive day.