A team of Spanish palaeontologists digging at a site near the remote village of Morella in eastern Spain, have uncovered the remains of what might turn out to a newly discovered dinosaur.
Fossils unearthed to date, indicate a long-necked dinosaur, known as a Sauropod. It is not clear which type of Sauropod the animal may be, but from the remains found it is probably a representative of the Brachiosauridae, a member of the Macronaria (long-necked dinosaurs with large nostrils, bigger than the orbit of their eyes). The scientists hope they will eventually recover most of the giant animal�s bone structure, a palaeontologist leading the excavation has said.
An Intriguing Discovery
The palaeontologist, Jose Miguel Gasulla, one of four scientists examining the fossil remains has described the discovery as very exciting because the bones have been preserved in articulation.
Indeed, finding a Brachiosaur fossil with any of the bones in an articulated or associated position is an extremely rare event. When fossils are described as being in articulation, it means that the bones have been preserved connected, just as they were when the animal was alive.
Ribs, Femur and Vertebrae Found
Senor Gasulla has stated that back-bones, thigh bones and ribs of a very big, mature dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous geological period have been found. The dimensions of some of the bones indicate a very large creature. The femur (thigh bone) for example, is 1.80 metres long (as tall as a man) and some of the ribs are 2.40 metres long (higher than a doorway in an average house).
Brachiosaur from Spain
The remains date from the Cretaceous period, approximately 120 million years ago (Aptian faunal stage). Most Brachiosaurus remains are associated with the earlier Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils such as these from Spain may help scientists piece together how the Brachiosaurs evolved and changed over time, helping to advance our knowledge about this particular group of dinosaurs.
Months of Work Ahead to Excavate the Large Fossils
The 14-strong excavation team have many months of work ahead of them but they are optimistic that these finds could represent a new species of Brachiosaur.
Discussing the problems on the dig site, the team have commented that although the fossil bones are large, they are extremely delicate. The vertebrae are particularly fragile as they were filled with air cavities in life to make them lighter. Sauropod dinosaurs evolved light but strong skeletons to support their huge bulk.
Rich in Fossil Remains
The region, known as the Maestrazgo, is rich in dinosaur remains, and the site between the towns of Morella and Cinctorres was spotted as promising in 2002. But excavation began only in 2005, when the project obtained funds, initially from a wind energy company, then with the support of Valencia’s regional government.
The Naming of a New Species Can Be Difficult
The naming of a new species of Brachiosaur may be more difficult than the team anticipate as a debate is currently raging in palaeontological circles with regards to a number of specimens classified as Brachiosaurs dated from the Jurassic. Fossils found in the Morrison Formation when compared to those found in East Africa may indicate different genera. Some palaeontologists have re-classified the African fossils as a new genus of dinosaur called (appropriately enough), Giraffatitan “titan Giraffe”.
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