Imagine waking up one fine day, only to realise that one of the most gigantic creatures to have walked the Earth once resided where you currently live — and we do not mean this metaphorically!
In one such unprecedented turn of events, a man from Portugal’s Pombal, while carrying out some construction work in his backyard back in 2017, encountered fossilised bones of what looked like a humongous dinosaur!
Startled, the man immediately contacted palaeontologists from the University of Lisbon, after which the team began the excavation process.
Now, about five years since the discovery, researchers believe that the remains belonged to a 39-foot-tall brachiosaurid sauropod — a herbivorous, long-necked quadrupedal dinosaur that dominated the world during the Late Jurassic Period about 160 to 100 million years ago.
Some other species that belong to this group include Brachiosaurus altithorax from North America, Giraffatitan brancai from Africa, and the Lusotitan atalaiensis from Portugal’s western region.
Examination of the remains indicates that this dinosaur was approximately 12 metres high and 25 metres long, which makes it the largest dinosaur ever found in Europe!
“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, particularly sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic,” explained Elisabete Malafaia, postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Ciências ULisboa), Portugal.
So far, vital parts of the axial skeleton (such as bones of the ribs and vertebrae) have been retrieved from the site. Due to the preservation characteristics, the researchers suspect more elements of the skeleton to be present in the region. They will thus carry out further excavation campaigns in and around the area to assemble the exhilarating puzzle piece.
Some of the unearthed remains are yet to be treated in a laboratory for the removal of the sediments. Once done, further studies will be conducted in the museum for accuurate identification and exhibition.
This study is being carried out by researchers from Instituto Dom Luiz, University of Lisbon (Portugal), the Evolutionary Biology Group at UNED-Madrid (Spain) and the Faculty of Fine Arts at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Its findings add valuable insights into the skeletal morphology of sauropods, and will improve the understanding of the phylogeny of Late Jurassic dinosaurs in Portugal.
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