Spanish Scientists Report on Dinosaur Bone-Bed Discovery

Iberian Discoveries Show Thriving Dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous

Spanish scientists have announced the discovery of a large dinosaur bone-bed containing the remains of numerous dinosaurs, so far eight species of dinosaur have been identified amongst the eight thousand fossils unearthed.

The site, near the city of Cuenca in western Spain is being heralded as one of the largest dinosaur bone-beds found in Europe, although it will have to go a long way to beat the amazing Plateosaur bone-beds discovered recently on the Swiss/German border. It certainly is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries to date on the Iberian peninsula.

Upper Cretaceous Strata

The Spanish site, consists of sediments laid down in the Upper Cretaceous, approximately eighty million years ago (Campanian faunal stage) and the beautifully preserved finds provide a window onto a time period towards the end of the age of Dinosaurs. Most fossil yielding sediments dating from this part of the Mesozoic are located in the Americas, accessing layers of strata from this time in Europe is a rare event.

Europe Underwater For Much of the Cretaceous

Much of the continent that we now know as Europe was underwater during the Cretaceous geological period. The Cretaceous geological period was a time between 144 and 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated life on land and huge marine reptiles were the apex predators in the sea. Sea levels in the Cretaceous were much higher than they are today and as a result, much of Europe - France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy was underwater.

Discovering an Important Palaeontological Dig Site

The site was discovered in June 2007 during construction of a new high-speed rail link between Madrid and Valencia. Construction work was halted to permit the scientists to remove many fossils from the path of the railway line. Although the excavation is not complete the concentration of finds has impressed even the most hard-nosed of palaeontologists. The remains of over one hundred Titanosaurs (long-necked dinosaurs) have been identified, some of them nearly intact. Interestingly, scutes and plates have been found at the site, indicating that these Titanosaurs probably had body armour like their South American cousin - Saltasaurus.

Plant-Eating and Meat-Eating Prehistoric Animal Fossils Found

Some scientists studying Campanian and Maastrichtian strata from North America have identified a notable decline in the species and diversity of dinosaurs in upper Cretaceous sediments. This has led to claims that the dinosaurs were under environmental pressure and declining as a group before the extinction event sixty-five million years ago. Evidence from this new site (the area is called Lo Hueco), supports studies of late Cretaceous dinosaurs from France indicating that at least in Europe, the dinosaurs show no signs of decline.

Other finds include the remains of a Struthiosaurus, a small, armoured Nodosaur (like an Ankylosaur but without the club tail) and possibly three different species of Dromaeosaur (fast-running, small, bipedal carnivores similar to Velociraptor). This one location is helping palaeontologists to build up a picture of the fauna that inhabited this part of the world in the Late Cretaceous. Scientist claim that this single Spanish location will provide more data on Late Cretaceous dinosaurs than any other site yet discovered in the whole of the European continent.

Bones will Help Scientists to Understand European Prehistoric Genera

Fossil evidence has also been found of an Ornithopod called Rhabdodon. Remains of this Iguanodon-like animal have been found before in France, Spain and Romania but palaeontologists are unsure as to whether this animal was an Iguanodontid or a member of the Hypsilophodontidae. Perhaps these new finds will help scientists classify this dinosaur.

The abundance of fossil animal and plant material recovered from the dig site, indicate a very rich and diverse ecosystem with no evident signs of environmental pressure. Palaeontologists from a number of museums and universities on the Iberian peninsula have visited the site in a bid to map as much of the fossil remains before the construction teams move back in to finish their transport building project.

Article Source: Mike Walley

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