It could be the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Europe
The remains of what could turn out to be the largest dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed in the backyard of a Pombal landowner in central Portugal.
The fossilized skeleton apparently belonged to a 25-metre-long sauropod dinosaur, believed to have been around 12 metres tall – the equivalent to a six-storey building.
The remains are now being studied by an international research team.
The story dates back to 2017, when a man found several fragments of fossilized bones in the backyard of his property in Pombal while carrying out constructions work. He immediately contacted the research team, which carried the first excavation campaign in that same year.
“More recently, between August 1 and 10, 2022, Portuguese and Spanish palaeontologists working on the site have been unearthing what can be the remains of the largest sauropod dinosaur to be found in Europe,” said the team in a statement posted on Eurekalert, a non-profit news release distribution system.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position,” says Elisabete Malafaia, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Ciências ULisboa).
“This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic,” adds the researcher.
So far, “an important set of elements of the axial skeleton has been collected from the site,” says the research team, which includes “vertebrae and ribs of a possible brachiosaurid sauropod dinosaur.”
“The Brachiosauridae group is composed of large species that lived from the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous, approximately 160 to 100 million years ago, and are characterised by the presence of markedly developed forelimbs. Some of the most emblematic dinosaur species belong to this group of sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus altithorax and Giraffatitan brancai, as well as the Portuguese Late Jurassic species found in Portugal’s West region, Lusotitan atalaiensis,” the group adds.
“The preservation characteristics of the fossils and their disposition indicate the possible presence of other parts of the skeleton of this individual, a hypothesis that will be tested in future excavation campaigns in the deposit,” the team adds.
“The research in the Monte Agudo paleontological locality confirms that the region of Pombal has an important fossil record of Late Jurassic vertebrates, which in the last decades has provided the discovery of abundant materials very significant for the knowledge of the continental faunas that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula at about 145 million years ago”, adds Elisabete Malafaia.
The work is being carried out by researchers from Instituto Dom Luiz at Ciências ULisboa (Portugal), the Evolutionary Biology Group at UNED-Madrid (Spain) and the Faculty of Fine Arts at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), with the support of the Pombal Council.