Stegosaurus fossil found in Portugal

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The Independent Online

Scientists have found the fossilised remains of a 150 million-year-old stegosaurus in central Portugal. The discovery of the prehistoric creature, which has gigantic armoured plates zigzagging down its back, is further evidence that Europe and America were once joined.

"Stegosaurus is a species typical of America, one of the iconic dinosaurs that appear in the movies, and this is the first time it's been found in Europe," said Fernando Escaso, from Madrid University, who led a team of Spanish and Portuguese scientists.

The specimen found at Casal Novo, near Batalha, north of Lisbon, in a region rich in dinosaur fossils, belong to the species Stegosaurus ungulatus, and "constitute the first incontrovertible evidence that a member of the genus stegosaurus lived outside North America," Mr Escaso told yesterday's El Pais newspaper. Writing in the online edition of the scientific journal Naturwissenschaften, geophysicists confirmed "a very high probability that an episodic corridor once existed between the Newfoundland and Iberian land masses.

"The discovery of the Portuguese stegosaurus, together with geotechtonic evidence, favour a scenario that includes contacts among fauna between the land masses of the north Atlantic," they say. Scientists have in the past found related - but never identical - species on both sides of the Atlantic.

The stegosaurus, a herbivore, roamed the earth between 148 million and 153 million years ago during the Upper Jurassic period. The dinosaurs averaged nine metres long and four metres tall, but the fossilised partial skeleton recovered from Casal Novo, found during excavations to build a motorway, was just five metres long.

The remains, some of which have still to be excavated, include part of the spinal column, dorsal plates, bones, including the thigh bone, and a tooth. Dr Escaso said: "We don't have much to go on, but what we have is fundamental to identify the species."

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