Dinosaur remains 'may be new species'

Elizabeth Nash
Wednesday 27 August 2008 16:49
Comments

Palaeontologists have found extensive remains of a 120 million-year-old dinosaur near the remote village of Morella in eastern Spain, which they say could belong to a hitherto undiscovered species.

Remains so far uncovered of a Sauropod dinosaur linked to the Brachiosaurus family are virtually intact, giving scientists hope they will eventually recover most of the giant animal´s bone structure, a palaeontologist leading the excavation said today.

"It's a very exciting find, because you rarely come across the bones in their original skeletal shape," Jose Miguel Gasulla, one of four leaders of the dig in the Valencia region, said today.

When striding the Iberian mountains on all four feet, the dinosaur must have been up to 25m long and weighed up to 40 tons, Mr Gasulla reckons. The creature with its characteristic long neck and tail was a member of the Brachiosaurus group, more commonly referred to as the giraffe-type, which held its head high, some 11m above the ground.

"We have found vertebrae, ribs and a thigh bone of a very big adult dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period,"Mr Gasulla said today, speaking by telephone from the site. "It's also enormous. We first found a femur [thigh bone] 1.80m long, articulated with the hip, then bigger and bigger ribs, up to 2.40m."

The remains date from the early Cretaceous period, some 120 million years ago. Most Brachiosaurus remains have been found from the preceding Jurassic period. "Those from the early Cretaceous period are much less common, and one of this size is vary rare, so we are able to advance our knowledge of the group in this period," Mr Gasulla said.

Scientists want to establish whether their find is a new species of the family or directly related to others already discovered. "We want to situate this dinosaur in the context of Sauropod dinosaurs. We have considerable hope that it may be a new species, linked to the Brachiosaurus, and for which we'd have to find a new name."

The 14-strong excavation team are extracting the bones they uncover, "but its very delicate work," Mr Gasulla says. The vertebrae are big, but fragile, filled with air cavities to make them lighter. "If you have a neck six to eight metres long, how do you lift that huge weight? So the bone content was reduced by air holes."

Palaeontologists are digging down into a remote hillside covered in ancient holm oak woodlands, and Mr Gasulla declines to estimate how long it will take to excavate the full skeleton. "We´ll have to shore it up, strengthen it with polyurethane, lift it with a crane - it'll take ages".

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 from Valencia's regional government.

Authorities also fund a proposed dinosaur museum in Morella, Mudin, with which Mr Gasulla is enthusiastically involved. The museum, due to open shortly, will include entertaining visual displays for the lay visitor, and a "scientifically rigorous" research centre for professionals investigating the excavations roundabout, he says.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in