Earlier this week, Portuguese and Spanish paleontologists report on the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Europe.
A humble backyard in the central Portugal city Pombal doesn’t sound like the kind of place where history is written. And yet, an international research team is hard at work at this site studying what may very well be fossils of the largest dinosaur species ever unearthed in Europe.
The remains are believed to belong to a species of sauropod, a dinosaur that could grow to 12 meters in height and 25 meters in length.
Building on bones
The fossils were first discovered in 2017, when a local was carrying out a building project on his property in Pombal. While the work was underway, he noticed the fossils buried in his yard, and contacted the researchers. Excavation work at the site started the next year.
In August of this year, these efforts finally yielded full fossils. So far, archeologists have unearthed a set of vertebrae and ribs, judging from which the specimen was a sauropod in the group Brachiosauridae, the researchers believe. This group of dinosaurs lived from the Upper Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous (160-100 million years ago), and stand out through their well-developed forelimbs. They were herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and long tails, that walked on all fours.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position. This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic”, says Elisabete Malafaia, Postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Ciências ULisboa), Portugal, in a press release.
The team adds that the preservation quality of the bones found so far, as well as their relative positions, makes it very likely that there is more to this skeleton that hasn’t yet been discovered. As such, they plan on continuing their excavation campaigns in the following years.
The preservation characteristics of the fossils and their disposition indicate the possible presence of other parts of the skeleton of this individual, a hypothesis that will be tested in future excavation campaigns in the deposit.
“The research in the Monte Agudo paleontological locality confirms that the region of Pombal has an important fossil record of Late Jurassic vertebrates, which in the last decades has provided the discovery of abundant materials very significant for the knowledge of the continental faunas that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula at about 145 million years ago”, Malafaia adds.