Dinosaur find puts Pombal hamlet on Portugal’s palaeontology map

A new discovery of a dinosaur fossil in the rural hamlet of Santiago de Litém, Pombal, has reinforced Portugal’s position as one of Europe’s richest areas for dinosaur ‘finds’.

The latest discovery – made by a farmer ploughing pasture for seeding – has been confirmed as the fossil of a sauropod.

Sauropods were huge four-footed herbivores that lived in the so-called Upper Jurassic period 161 million to 145 million years ago.

The extraordinary aspect of this story is that farmer Fernando Francisco is reported to have known “immediately” that the stone-like object was important.

“I thought it was the remains of a dinosaur bone,” he said, “as quite a few have been found in this area.”

Thus, instead of continuing with his ploughing, Francisco got in touch with Lisbon’s natural history museum and last week investigators alighted on his farm, to find yet more remains.

Intriguingly, the area is also known for fossils of a much more “dangerous” dino: the carnivorous biped (moving on two feet) Allosaurus fragilis.

Until relatively recently, scientists had only found remains of Allosaurus fragilis in America.

Its discovery in Portugal further proves that millions of years ago the ‘continents’ we now know as America and Europe were joined together.

Certainly Santiago de Litém’s parish council president Guilherme Domingues is in no doubt that “many more fossils” lie underfoot in the area. He told Portugal’s news media this week that he would be “trying to alert the local population to keep an eye on whatever they find”.

Fernando Francisco’s latest fossil has the aspect of an “airplane wing”, although it could so easily have been mistaken for an odd-shaped stone.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]