An international team of paleontologists led by the University of Lisbon is currently investigating the remains of what could be the largest dinosaur found in Europe. The fossils were discovered in 2017 by the owner of a property in Pombal, Portugal, who spotted several fragments of fossilized bones in his yard while carrying out construction work. The remains are now thought to belong to a sauropod – a group of herbivorous, quadrupedal dinosaurs, with long neck and tails – measuring approximately 12 meters in height and 25 meters in length.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position. This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic,” said Elisabete Malafaia, a postdoctoral researcher in Geology at the University of Portugal.
Until now, an important set of elements of the axial skeleton has been unearthed at the site, including several vertebrae and ribs. The scientists believe that this remains belonged to a massive brachiosaurid sauropod dinosaur which lived during the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous (approximately 160 to 100 million years ago), and was characterized by markedly developed forelimbs. Some of the most emblematic dinosaur species that belong to this group of sauropods include Brachiosaurus altithorax and Giraffatitan brancai, as well as Lusotitan atalaiensis, a Late Jurassic species found in Portugal’s West region.
The preservation characteristics and disposition of the fossils indicate the possible presence of other parts of the skeleton, a hypothesis the researchers aim to test during future excavation campaigns at the site.
“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,” Dr. Malafaia concluded.