SAO PAULO – A child on the banks of the Acre River in Brazil has discovered a fossil of a giant prehistoric reptile that inhabited the Amazon 8 million years ago, according to a scientist on Thursday.
Paleontologist Jonas Filho, from the Federal University of Acre, has been in the municipality of Brasileia since Tuesday with a team of researchers to remove the jaw of what appears to be a part of the skull of a Purussaurus, a giant caiman.
The jawbone was discovered on July 11 by an 11-year-old while fishing with his father on the banks of the Acre River, in Acre state bordering Bolivia and Peru.
However, the discovery was only reported on Thursday when the paleontologist managed to extract the first fossil.
The child, identified as Robson Cavalcante, stumbled upon the fossil and thought it belonged to a dinosaur.
His father, carpenter Jose Militao, returned the next day to dig deeper, taking care not to damage the jaw, paleontologist Filho told reporters, adding that the discovery was unprecedented as the fossil was in one single piece.
Another fossil, which appeared to be part of the animal’s skull, was exposed near where the jaw was found.
The Purussaurus was 12.5 meters (41 feet) long and possibly weighed some 8.4 tons. They inhabited the region from Acre in Brazil to Panama, covering the region of Colombia, Venezuela and Peru, before they became extinct.
One of the major characteristics of this species was the force of its bite, equivalent to 7 tons, allowing it to consume a wide range of life forms.
A life-size replica of the Purussaurus, which inhabited the region until the end of the Miocene period, is on display at the UFAC research laboratory in Rio Branco, Acre’s capital.