When tending to the garden, most people wouldn’t expect to encounter anything bigger than an overgrown weed.
However, a man in Portugal got a little more than he bargained for while digging on his property, as he found a massive set of fossilized dinosaur bones.
After studying the skeleton, scientists discovered that it belonged to an 82-foot (25-meter) brachiosaurus that lived between 160 and 100 million years ago.
It could be the largest sauropod dinosaur – a subgroup characterized by its four legs, long neck and tail, and herbivorous diet – ever found in Europe.
Elisabete Malafaia, a researcher at the University of Lisbon, said: “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 rare in the fossil record of dinosaurs, especially sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic.”
Earlier this month, Portuguese and Spanish paleontologists announced they had found a sauropod dinosaur about 39 feet (12 meters) tall and 82 feet (25 meters) long.
They may be the largest sauropod dinosaur ever found in Europe, a subgroup characterized by its four legs, long neck and tail, and herbivorous diet.
Axial skeletal elements have been discovered so far, including vertebrae and ribs that indicate it was a brachiosaurid. Dinosaurs belonging to this group include Brachiosaurus altithorax (pictured) which was animated in the 1993 film Jurassic Park
WHAT ARE SAUROPODS?
Sauropods are an order of dinosaurs.
They had very long necks, long tails, small heads (compared to the rest of their body) and four thick pillar-like legs.
They are distinguished by the enormous sizes reached by some species, and the group includes the largest creatures to have ever lived on earth.
Well-known sauropods include Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, and Brontosaurus.
Sauropods first appeared in the late Triassic and by the end of the Jurassic, 150 million years ago, sauropods had become widespread.
In 2017, a homeowner in Pombal first noticed fossilized bone fragments in his yard while he was carrying out construction work.
He contacted the research team, which carried out an excavation of the Monte Agudo site that year.
But it was not until the beginning of the month that Portuguese and Spanish paleontologists announced what they had found – a sauropod dinosaur about 39 feet (12 meters) tall and 82 feet (25 meters) long.
Axial skeletal elements have been discovered so far, including vertebrae and ribs that indicate it was a brachiosaurid.
The Brachiosauridae group lived from the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous.
Unlike other sauropods, they have longer forelimbs than their hindlimbs, resulting in a longer torso and proportionally shorter tail.
Dinosaurs belonging to this group include Brachiosaurus altithorax – the first computer-generated dinosaur shown in the 1993 film Jurassic Park – and Lusotitan atalaiensis which was found in western Portugal.
The preservation characteristics of the discovered fossils indicate that other parts of the skeleton could still be present in the deposit, which will be explored during future excavation campaigns.
Ms Malafaia added: “Research in the paleontological locality of Monte Agudo confirms that the Pombal region has an important fossil record of Late Jurassic vertebrates.
“In recent decades, the region has provided the discovery of abundant materials that are very important for the knowledge of the continental faunas that populated the Iberian Peninsula around 145 million years ago.
The skeleton was discovered at the paleontological site of Monte Agudo in Pombal, Portugal
The Brachiosauridae group lived from the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous. Unlike other sauropods, they have longer forelimbs than their hindlimbs, resulting in a longer torso and proportionally shorter tail.
The announcement comes just a month after the footprints of a 26-foot (eight-meter) long sauropod were spotted outside a restaurant in China.
Ou Hongtao, a diner at the restaurant in the Leshan district, noticed several large pits in the stones of the yard.
Paleontologists were called to the scene and determined that the footprints had been made by two dinosaurs, marking the first evidence that they ever roamed the city.
The restaurant used to be a chicken farm and at that time the prints were covered with a layer of dirt that protected and preserved them, CNN reported.
The restaurant owner said he removed the dirt to expose the large boulders, but liked their natural look and so left them as they were instead of covering them with cement.
Researchers from the University of Geosciences of China confirmed the footprints using a 3D ground scanner, which uses radar pulses to image the subsoil.
The footprints belong to two sauropods, the largest of which is 26 feet long. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth 100 million years ago
HOW THE DINOSAURS WERE EXTINCT ABOUT 66 MILLION YEARS AGO
Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth around 66 million years ago, before suddenly disappearing.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.
It was believed for many years that climate change was destroying the food chain of huge reptiles.
In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.
It is a rare element on Earth but found in large quantities in space.
When this was dated, it coincided precisely with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.
A decade later, scientists discovered the massive Chicxulub crater at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates to the period in question.
The scientific consensus now says that these two factors are linked and that they were both likely caused by a huge asteroid crashing into Earth.
With the projected impact size and velocity, the collision would have caused a huge shock wave and likely triggered seismic activity.
The fallout would have created ash plumes that likely covered the entire planet and made it impossible for the dinosaurs to survive.
Other animal and plant species had a shorter time interval between generations, which allowed them to survive.
There are several other theories about what caused the famous animals to disappear.
One early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs and another proposes that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.
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