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Dinosaur Megaexcavation

 Estimated reading time: 2 min.Texts Karina Jozami   Photos Archivo Proyecto Dino
Dinosaur Megaexcavation

Display of the singular paleontological richness of the region is the Lago Barreales bed, located within the Paynemill mapuche community territories.

Around February, 2000, a team of researchers from the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, under the directions of paleontologist Jorge Calvo, were rescuing fossil remains in the water inlet of the Paynemil and Caxipayiñ mapuche communities. After this discovery, they decided to explore the northern shore of Lake Barreales, in search for more remains.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
The exploration consisted in going 600 m along the barda (plateau foot) to some nearby bushes. When they reached the bushes, some bones and splinters appeared and, searching deeper, in less than an hour, they had already discovered a theropod tooth, part of a sauropod humerus and a turtle shell.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
Ariana, a student from La Plata who was doing her first paleontological campaign, found a splinter near the truck and started to clean it. After 50 minutes, a cervical vertebra was emerging from the rock. Then, everybody started to clean the area, amazed to discover the remains, vertebra after vertebra.
The fossils found at Lake Barreales recount an extremely rich paleontological bed dating back to 90 millions of years ago.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
Some 300 fossil pieces of vertebrates and about 100 vegetable remains have been recovered at the paleontological site so far. The following groups outstand amount all the elements of this variety: sauropod dinosaurs (giant, e.g. "Futalognkosaurus"), theropods (Megaraptor), ornithopods, pterosauria, crocodiles, tortoise, fish and egg-shells. Calvo assures enthusiastically that “it is a completely mesozoic ecosystem”. An example of this is a small dinosaur, belonging to a species so far unknown and unnamed. It used to be two meters long, have a horn-like beak and stand on its rear legs. It would cover the lower vegetation ecological niche.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
The explorations, which started around the year 2000 and, in spite of the economical ups and downs, have continued without any interruptions since January 2002, have been visited by researchers from the country as well as from abroad. Furthermore, countless students take part in the field work and the camping life, turning all this into an enrichening experience both for the project group and the visitors.

The bed that gave shape to the Dino Project is quite promising: the most important campaign for the extraction of dinosaur and other fossil remains in South America. It is the only dinosaur excavation that is open to the public in Argentina. It has been declared of national interest by the House of Representatives of the Nation.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
A real didactic experience sposored by scientific studies. Within an indoor structure, you can observe all the work done to rescue the dinosaurs. Paleontologists and specialized guides teach us the techniques for cleaning the fossils, their treatment and conservation, and they gave us an explanation about the flora and fauna that used to dwell on these lands millions of years ago.

Likewise, the Centro Paleontológico Lago Barrenales, which depends on the Universidad del Comahue, is the center of research and training of future paleontologists dedicated to the extraction, preparation and scientific study of dinosaurs in Neuquén. Research, education and paleontological tourism meet in this center and turn the area of Lake Barreales into an ideal site to discover and see the dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Megaexcavation
Useful Data
How to get here
Leaving from Neuquén, the capital of the province, take Provincial Route 7 and then Route 51 towards Añelo. Before reaching this district, and after having passed Lake Mari Menuco, lies Lake Barreales. The entrance to the paleontological center is located in the detour towards the lake.
send an e-mail enquiry to take part in the excavations. There is vacancy for 3 people per day and full-board.
the opportunity offered by this center to be part of the team of paleontologists and participate in the field research is a unique experience you cannot miss.
Centro Paleontológico Lago Barreales
Ruta Provincial 51 - KM 65 (8300) Neuquén - Neuquén - Argentina
Cel: +54 9 299-6329558  
Inter Patagonia

Level of Difficulty
2 hours
Tour Kind
Useful DataUseful Data


The Detail

As we have already mentioned, Lake Barreales is the only dinosaur excavation permanently open to the public to have active participation.
In order to see the entire process, it is advisable to stay in the field for 4 days. During the stay, as well as the excavation, explorations to various sites searching for fossils are done, fossils are cleaned and prepared at the laboratory, paleontological collections are observed and specialized lessons are dictated, to mention some of the activities.
Undoubtedly, this is the site to be a paleontologist for a few days.

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