A hefty sauropod, possibly the largest ever dinosaur uncovered in Europe, has been found by accident. In 2017, a homeowner in Pombal, Portugal, spotted some fossilized bones during construction works. Flash forward half a decade and it seems it could be he was sitting on a record-breaking prehistoric specimen – living the actual dream.
Excavation work is still underway at the site, which is proving to be a historic one, hiding a sauropod that is estimated to have stood 12 meters (39 feet) high and 25 meters (82 feet) long when it was alive sometime between 160 and 100 million years ago. At that size, it would be the largest of its kind ever found in the whole of Europe.
Paleontologists from Portugal and Spain have been helping to uncover the behemoth, and note that as well as being gigantic, it is remarkably well positioned.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position,” said Elisabete Malafaia, Postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Ciências ULisboa), Portugal, in a statement. “This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic.”
Their efforts have so far uncovered vertebrae and ribs of what they expect to be a brachiosaurid sauropod dinosaur, animals that were among the largest ever to exist. The way the bones are arranged has given hope to the paleontologists that they may yet find more pieces of the skeletal puzzle.
These dinosaurs had specialized forelimbs and a curious thumb claw that fans of Prehistoric Planet may recall Dreadnoughtus putting to good use in an epic battle between competing males. They lived from the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous, a window of time around 160 to 100 million years ago.
“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”, continued Malafaia.
Much work remains to be done to uncover more of the story behind what may be Europe’s biggest dinosaur found to date, but for now, it makes for an incredible story of what can happen when you look beneath your feet (sometimes, even in a restaurant!).