New Iberian dinosaur Garumbatitan stomps onto the scene

Garumbatitan morellensis is a new sauropod discovered in Morella in eastern Spain. The giant dinosaur lived about 122 million years ago.

The new species is described in a paper published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Morella has seen a number of fossil remains uncovered in recent years. Among them is an important collection of ornithopod dinosaurs including Morelladon. Now Garumbatitan expands the known diversity of animals that lived in the region during the early Cretaceous period (145–65 million years ago).

Palaeontologist digging sauropod fossils
Sant Antoni de la Vespa deposit during the extraction of one of the Garumbatitan specimens. Credit: GBE-UNED.

Sauropods are the largest of the dinosaur groups. Some species, like Dreadnaughtus, were the largest land animals ever, reaching 35–40 metres in length and weighing an estimated 70–100 tonnes.

“One of the individuals we found stands out for its large size, with vertebrae more than 1 metre wide, and a femur that could reach 2 metres in length,” says lead author Pedro Mocho, a palaeontologist from the University of Lisbon, Portugal. “We found 2 almost complete and articulated feet in this deposit, which is particularly rare in the geological record.”

Garumbatitan’s unique femur and foot morphology suggest that it is one of the most primitive members of a group of sauropods called Somphospondyli.

The findings also suggest evolutionary links between sauropods in the Cretaceous in Europe and other parts of the world.

“Our study highlights the enormous complexity of the evolutionary history of sauropods from the European Cretaceous – in particular, from the Iberian Peninsula, with species related to lineages present in Asia and North America, as well as some groups related to forms from the African continent,” Mocho explains.

“Our results suggest the existence of periods of faunal dispersal between these continents.”

“The future restoration of all fossil materials found in this deposit will add important information to understand the initial evolution of this group of sauropods that dominated dinosaur faunas during the last million years of the Mesozoic era,” says senior author Francisco Ortega from Spain’s Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia.

Subscribe to our quarterly print magazine

Please login to favourite this article.