They discover in the Pyrenees a dinosaur as big as an articulated bus


Madrid

Updated:

Keep

A team of researchers led by the Catalan Institute of Paleontology Miquel Crusafont has discovered in Pajares de Yuso, in the Lleida Pyrenees, the very well preserved remains of a new species of gigantic herbivorous dinosaur. baptized as Abditosaurus kuehnei, it is a tyrannosaurus almost 18 meters long -as long as an articulated city bus- and weighing 14 tons that lived 70.5 million years ago. At that time it was the most impressive animal in the Ibero-Armorian domain, the ancient region that currently includes Iberia and the south of France.

Precisely, the extraordinary dimensions of the dinosaur were one of the aspects that most caught the attention of the researchers. “The titanosaurs we found in the Late Cretaceous of Europe tend to be smaller.

You can take their vertebrae with your hand, “explains Bernat Vila, lead author of the study, which is published this Monday in ‘Nature Ecology & Evolution’. That these European titanosaurs measured between 6 and 10 meters, a not so impressive presence, is due to the effect of insularity on the fauna of the region.

During the Upper Cretaceous (between 83 and 66 million years ago), Europe was an extensive archipelago made up of dozens of islands. One of them was made up of what is now the Iberian Peninsula and the south of France. The faunas that evolved there tended to be small or even dwarf forms due to the food limitation of living on an island, a recurring phenomenon in the history of life on Earth and of which there are many examples in the fossil record.

“However,” continues the scientist, “the dorsal vertebrae of Abditosaurus they measure 940 cm in width, and the femur could reach the meter thirty». Phylogenetic analyzes (that is, of kinship) of the new species indicate that the giant came from the south, from the old continental block of Gondwana, where titanosaurs were much larger. ‘Our hypothesis is that about 70.6 million years ago, there was a drop in sea level and the shallows were exposed, so these larger dinosaurs were able to cross here from north of what we thought. today it is Africa”, explains Vila. There is other evidence to support the migration hypothesis, such as the finding in the same site of eggshells from titanosaur species known to inhabit Gondwana. Whether they arrived in search of food because of climate change or simply expanded by the mere fact of not having geographical barriers is something that is not yet clear.

Images of different fossil remains of Abditosaurus kuehnei at the Orcau-1 site (a), of the excavation process (b and c) and of the already prepared neck (d)
Images of different fossil remains of Abditosaurus kuehnei at the Orcau-1 site (a), of the excavation process (b and c) and of the already prepared neck (d)

‘forgotten reptile’

The history of the research that has led to the description of the new species dates back to 1954, when the German paleontologist Walter Kühne excavated its first remains and sent them to the Lucas Mallada Institute in Madrid. The site fell into oblivion until 1986 when some more remains were extracted, but a great storm canceled the excavation. The site was abandoned again until in 2012, research staff from the ICP, the Conca Dellà Museum and the University of Zaragoza systematically resumed excavations. ‘Abditosaurus’ means ‘the forgotten reptile’ and ‘kuehnei’ is a tribute to its discoverer.

The recovered remains consist of various vertebrae and ribs of the trunk and bones of the limbs and the pelvic and shoulder girdles, but especially noteworthy is a semi-articulated fragment of the neck formed by 12 cervical vertebrae fused together. Just preparing the neck and studying it took the researchers several years of work. Although they do not know the exact cause of the animal’s death, they believe that it could have died of old age. There is no evidence of predation on the bones, so it appears the body was quickly buried.

Silhouette of the new titanosaur that shows the remains recovered in different excavation campaigns in different colors.  The light pink ones were excavated in the last century and have been lost
Silhouette of the new titanosaur that shows the remains recovered in different excavation campaigns in different colors. The light pink ones were excavated in the last century and have been lost – Bernardo González Riga

the great extinction

Titanosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems during the Cretaceous. Its skull was small and pointed, with small nail-shaped teeth that were used to uproot vegetation. They fed on flowering plants and gymnosperms (the family to which pines and araucarias belong). With its long neck it could reach the highest branches of the trees. They had a stocky body, with front legs shorter than the back legs, and a relatively long neck and tail. Some species – including many of those that we find fossilized in the current Pyrenees, then a large basin – had their trunks covered with bony plates called osteoderms. It is believed that these structures could serve as a protective shield or as a reserve of calcium. Abditosaurus It shared an environment with hadrosaurs (the famous duckbills) and ankylosaurs. Among the predators that could threaten it, there were abelisaurids and velociraptors, although, given its size, it must not have been an easy prey.

The Catalan Pyrenees are exceptional in terms of the fossil record of dinosaurs. They include the last species that lived in Europe before their disappearance 66 million years ago due to the impact of a large meteorite against what is now Mexico. It is likely that Abditosaurus was also a victim of the great extinction.

See them
comments


www.abc.es

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.