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Researchers Discover Giant Sauropod Fossils in Spain, Science Reports
An artist's drawing of the giant sauropod. [Image copyright AAAS/Science Illustration: Carin L. Cain]
Barrihonda-El Humero, Riodeva, Teruel, Spain Excavation. [Image courtesy of Fundación Dinópolis]
Skeletal elements of Turiasaurus riodevensis gen. et sp. nov.: left radius, ulna, carpal and manus in cranial view (A); humerus in cranial (B) and lateral (C) views; left ulna in cranial view (D); left radius in medial (E), proximal (F) and distal (G) views; left fibula in medial view (H); middle dorsal vertebra in cranial view (I); left sternal plate in ventral view (J); cervical vertebra and rib in left lateral view (K); cervical rib in medial (L) and lateral (M) views; left tibia in proximal (N) and medial (O) views; left astragalus in proximal (P) and cranial (Q) views; metatarsal V in lateral view (R); right pes in cranial view (S); distal caudal vertebra in left lateral view (T). Scale 1=20 cm (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, N, O, P, Q, S); scale 2=10 cm (I, J, K, L, M); scale 3=5 cm (R) and scale 4=2 cm (T). [Image © Science]
Fossils of a giant Sauropod, found in Teruel, Spain, reveal that Europe was home to giant dinosaurs in the Late Jurassic period—about 150 million years ago. This dinosaur may have been the most massive terrestrial animal in Europe, according to the report in the 22 December issue of the journal Science.
Researchers from the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis found dozens of sauropod bone fossils at the Barrihonda-El Humero site in the Riodeva village, Teruel, Spain.
The new sauropod, Turiasaurus riodevensis, is named for the Teruel area (Turia) and the village where it was found.
The turiasaurus is estimated to have weighed between 40 and 48 tons (the weight of six or seven adult male elephants) and is comparable to the world's largest known dinosaurs, including Argentinosaurus and Brachiosaurus. At its estimated length, between 30 and 37 meters, the sauropod would be as long as an NBA basketball court. "The humerus—the long bone in the foreleg that runs from the shoulder to the elbow—was as large as an adult," said Brooks Hanson, Science's deputy editor, physical sciences. The claw of the first digit of its pes, or hoof, is the size of an NFL football.
In addition to the humerus, researchers also found fragments of skull, scapula, femur, tibia and fibula, as well as teeth, vertebrae, ribs and phalanges.
The characteristics of the new dinosaur allows the authors to group several sauropod remains from Portugal, France, the United Kingdom and other Spanish areas in a new clade, or branch, of dinosaurs that has more primitive limb and bone structures than other giant sauropods that have been found on other continents in Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous rocks. "This dinosaur is also more evolutionary primitive than other giant sauropods found," Hanson said.
Analyses indicate that the new giant dinosaur represents a member of a formerly unrecognized group of primitive European eusauropod dinosaurs that evolved in the Jurassic.
The giant sauropod fossils were found in terrestrial deposits in a 280-square-meter section of the Villar del Arzobispo Formation (Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous) that has also yielded isolated elements of other sauropods, theropod teeth, postcranial remains of stegosaurs, as well as fish and turtles.
Giant dinosaurs have previously been found mainly in the New World and Africa.
22 December 2006