Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico

Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico

Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico

Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico

Synopsis

This overview of dinosaur discoveries in Mexico synthesizes current information about the geography and environment of the region during the Mesozoic when it was the western margin of the ancient continent of Pangea. The book summarizes research on various groups, including turtles, lepidosauromorphs, plesiosaurs, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and last but not least, dinosaurs. In addition, chapters focus on trackways and other trace fossils and on K/P boundary (the Chicxulub crater, beneath the Gulf of Mexico, has been hypothesized as the site of the boloid impact that killed off the dinosaurs). Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico is an up-to-date, informative volume on an area that has not been comprehensively described until now.

Excerpt

The oldest records for the discovery of prehistoric gigantic bones in what is today Mexico begins with the mythology of pre-Hispanic Aztecs who believed in the existence of giants they called “Quinametzin” or “Quinametin” (Maldonado-Köerdell, 1948; see also Mayor, 2005). Later, during the Spanish conquest, some documents chronicle the discovery of gigantic bones. One of these reports was by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1549–1626), who wrote in 1615 about the “bones of giants” from what are today the Mexican states of Tlaxcala and Yucatán. He also wrote that Hernando Cortés shipped some of the bones to the king of Spain during the first years of the Spanish occupation (Herrera y Tordesillas, 1730; published posthumously).

In 1754, Jesuit father Fray Joseph Torrubia (1698–1761) wrote in his work on the natural history of Spain and its colonies that fossils (petrifactions, as they were called) were organic in origin, which was contrary to the then-accepted explanation of them as “games of Nature.” He also dissents about what he calls “Spanish Gigantology,” which documented the existence of a race of giants in both the Old and New Worlds (Torrubia, 1754). These bones were recognized as belonging to fossil elephants as early as 1795. the remains of extinct proboscidians were commonly found during the excavations for buildings and wells. Although Pleistocene and other Late Tertiary mammals are common throughout Mexico, we have no record of dinosaur bones being found at this early date (Anonymous, 1799). Additional fossils from Mexico were mentioned by Don Andrés Manuel del Río (1764–1849) in his “Elements of Orictognosy” [mineralogy] (Del Río, 1795). Del Rio was a Spanish mineralogist who had studied with Abraham Gottlob Werner and Antoine Lavoisier.

The first report about dinosaurs in Mexico turned out to be an error. in 1840, Wilhelm Mahlmann briefly mentioned the discovery by Carl Degenhardt (a German mining engineer and friend of Baron Alexander von Humboldt) of footprints belonging to “great birds” at Oiva, which was erroneously stated as being in Mexico, instead of Colombia (Mahlmann, 1840). This error has subsequently confused many workers, who have perpetuated the mistake (e.g., Winkler, 1886; Kuhn, 1963; Thulborn, 1990) and was only recently corrected (Buffetaut, 2000). French geologists M. M. Dollfus and E. de Montserrat of the Commission Scientifique du Mexique made the first authentic report of dinosaurs from . . .

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