The remains of what appears to be the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Europe were recently discovered in Portugal. So far, scientists have excavated a giant rib cage belonging to a long-necked sauropod, possibly a brachiosaurid, that lived about 150 million years ago during the latter part of the Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years before). While the research team has yet to identify the species, the bones are already breaking records.
Paleontologists first began work on the site in 2017, when a local landowner in Pombal, Portugal, noticed some fossilized bone fragments sticking out of his yard. He alerted local authorities, who, in turn, alerted local researchers.
“At that time, we found some poorly preserved vertebrae and parts of ribs,” Francisco Ortega, a paleontologist at the National University of Distance Education in Madrid and a key member of the excavation team, told Live Science in an email. Since then, researchers have excavated a remarkably intact rib cage, which has allowed them to estimate the size of the dinosaur.
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By all accounts, it was great. The team estimated that the dinosaur would have weighed about 48 tons (44 metric tons)—more than a full-grown humpback whale—was up to 40 feet (12 meters) long and stretched over 82 feet (25 m) long from the snout. at the tip of the tail. .
So far, the skeletal structure appears consistent with that of a brachiosaurid, a group of sauropod dinosaurs that lived during the late and early Jurassic. Cretaceous period (145 million to 66 million years ago) and were famous for their elongated, noodle-like necks and long forelimbs. These giants grazed leaves from the forest canopy. Of the known brachiosaurids, the most likely candidate for the newfound giant is Lusotitan atalaiensiswho traveled to the Iberian Peninsula 152 million years ago.
“It is possible to believe that we may be in the presence of a new specimen of this poorly known sauropod,” Ortega said, “which is very exciting.”
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However, the researchers cautioned that it is still too early to define the dinosaur as a brachiosaurid, and species identification may be complicated even after the excavation is complete.
“This group of dinosaurs is represented by only a few discoveries, and is particularly rare in the upper part. [Late] Jurassic of Europe,” Ortega said. Additionally, size estimates of the newly discovered fossil indicate that this individual dinosaur was larger than any individual of L. atalaiensis discovered to date (although the new fossils may simply represent an unusually large individual of that species.) However, it may turn out to be an entirely new species.
Once the excavation of the fossil is complete, the remains will be prepared in Pombal with the support of Pombal Town Council. Ortega believes the reconstructed specimen will have “great museum potential” once it is preserved, analyzed and mounted.
Originally published in Live Science.