A team of archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of a 72-million-year-old dinosaur tail in a desert in northern Mexico, the country's National Institute of Anthropology and History (I NΑH) said on Monday.
In addition to being unusually well preserved, the 16-foot (5-meter) tail was the first to be found in Mexico, said Francisco Águilar, INH director in the border state of Coahuila.
The team, made up of archaeologists and students from I NΑH and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (U NΑM), identified the fossil as a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.
The tail, found near the small town of General Cepeda, probably made up half the length of the dinosaur, Águilar said.
Archaeologists found all 50 fully intact tail vertebrae after spending 20 days in the desert slowly kicking up sedimentary rock that covered the creature's bones.
Surrounding the tail were other fossilized bones, including one of the dinosaur's hips, I NΑH said.
Finds of dinosaur tails are relatively rare, according to I NΑH. The new discovery could improve understanding of the hadrosaur family and help investigate diseases that afflicted dinosaur bones, which resembled those of humans, Aguilar said.
Scientists have already determined that dinosaurs suffered from tumors and arthritis, for example.
Dinosaur remains have been found in many parts of the state of Coahuila, as well as other desert states in northern Mexico.
“We have a very rich history of paleontology,” Águilar said.
He noted that during the Cretaceous period, which ended about 65 million years ago, much of what is now north central Mexico was on the coast. This has allowed researchers to unearth remains of marine and terrestrial dinosaurs.
The presence of the remains was reported to I NΑH by locals in June 2012. After initial inspections, excavation began earlier this month. The remains of the tail will be transferred to General Cepeda for cleaning and further investigation.