Giant Sauropod dinosaur found in Spain

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Fossils of a giant Sauropod, found in Teruel Spain, reveal that Europe was home to giant dinosaurs in the Late Jurassic period -- about 150 million years ago. Giant dinosaurs have previously been found mainly in the New World and Africa.

This dinosaur may have been the most massive terrestrial animal in Europe.

The findings are published in the 22 December 2006 issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

Researchers from the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis found dozens of sauropod bone fossils at the Barrihonda-El Humero site the Riodeva village, Teruel, Spain.

The new sauropod, Turiasaurus riodevensis, is named for the Teruel area (Turia) and the village where it was found.

The turiasaurus is estimated to have weighed between 40 and 48 tons (the weight of six or seven adult male elephants) and is comparable to the world's largest known dinosaurs, including Argentinosaurus and Brachiosaurus. At its estimated length, between 30 and 37 meters, the sauropod would be as long as an NBA basketball court. "The humerus – the long bone in the foreleg that runs from the shoulder to the elbow – was as large as an adult," said Brooks Hanson, Science's deputy editor, physical sciences. The claw of the first digit of its pes, or hoof, is the size of an NFL football.

In addition to the humerus, researchers also found fragments of skull, scapula, femur, tibia and fibula, as well as teeth, vertebrae, ribs and phalanges.

The characteristics of the new dinosaur allows the authors to group several sauropod remains from Portugal, France, United Kingdom and other Spanish areas in a new clade, or branch, of dinosaurs that has more primitive limb and bone structures than other giant sauropods that have been found on other continents in Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous rocks. "This dinosaur is also more evolutionary primitive than other giant sauropods found," Hanson said.

Analyses indicate that the new giant dinosaur represents a member of a formerly unrecognized group of primitive European eusauropod dinosaurs that evolved in the Jurassic.

The giant sauropod fossils were found in terrestrial deposits in a 280 square meter section of the Villar del Arzobispo Formation (Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous) that has also yielded isolated elements of other sauropods, theropod teeth, postcranial remains of stegosaurs, as well as fish and turtles.

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"New Giant European Dinosaur and a New Sauropod Clade" by Rafael Royo-Torres, Alberto Cobos and Luis Alcalá appears in the 22 December issue of Science. They are researchers at Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis, Teruel, Spain.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science(www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.


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