The intact skull of Europe's largest dinosaur has been found in the Riodeva municipality of Aragon, Spain. The dinosaur lived 145 million years ago and weighed more than six to seven adult male elephants.
"Turiasaurus riodevensis - some 30 to 35 meters (100 to 115 feet) long - thus becomes the most complete sauropod found on the Iberian Peninsula," states an article in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.
At an earth-trembling weight of 40 to 48 tonnes as well, this sauropod is the largest to be found in Europe as of yet. The first bones of the species were discovered in 2003, with further fossils found in a 2005 excavation campaign in the Barrihonda-El Humero deposits of the municipality.
Seven teeth and about 35 bones of the skull were presented, completing 70 percent of its fossil record. It is a remarkable discovery given that researchers find that 4/5 of sauropod skeletons are found without skulls, which are typically extremely fragile. Other parts of the skeleton found alongside the skull were fragments of the neck, shoulder vertebrae, shoulder blades, feet and hips.
Researcher Rafael Royo says it took the team of paleontolgists two years of meticulous preparation on the bones to ready them for presentation.
Turiasaurus joins the ranks of other enormous sauropods, such as Seismosaurus from North America, Argentinosaurus from South America, Mamenchisaurus from Asia, and Giraffatitan from Africa. Herbivorous sauropods dominated the Mesozoic period as the largest animals to have ever walked the Earth. They first evolved in the late Triassic (200 million years ago) lasting until the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
AAAS/Science & Carin L. Cain
Artist's conception of Turiasaurus riodevensis, Europe's largest dinosaur yet.