NEW YORK, BRONX (ORDO News) — To get an idea of its gigantic size – ten meters in height – it is enough to remember one of the opening scenes of the film “Jurassic Park” (1993). Amazed Dr. Alan Grant, getting out of the car, fixes his gaze on a brachiosaurus running along the slopes of an island turned into an amusement park with cloned dinosaurs.
“Garumbatitan morellensis can be compared to the same type,” says paleontologist José Miguel Gasulla.
Garumbatitan morellensis is a new species of sauropod dinosaur that lived on the Iberian Peninsula 122 million years ago during the Lower Cretaceous era. It was described from remains found during excavations in the area of the city of Morella (province of Castellon). This discovery was recently published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society of London.
This is the sixth new species of dinosaur described in Valencia, five of which were also discovered in the city of Morella. This find increases the diversity of Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs found in Europe in the Els Ports mountainous region of Castellon province.
This four-legged and herbivorous dinosaur was capable of absorbing up to 30-40 kilograms of vegetation per day and had a very long neck and tail. Garumbatitan morellensis was one of the largest dinosaurs, according to paleontologists José Miguel Gasulla and Francisco Ortega of UNED’s Evolutionary Biology Group, which coordinates much of the paleontological work at Morell and who collaborated on this research with Pedro Mocho, a scientist from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Lisbon.
The new species was named after its size: Garumbatitan means “giant of Garumba”, as the dinosaur was found at the base of Muela de la Garumba, one of the highest points of Els Ports. The word Morellensis refers to the city in the area of which the find was discovered.
Researchers from the Catalan Paleontological Institute, the Grup Guix association from the city of Villarreal, the Museum of Natural Sciences of Valencia, the Universidad Jaime I and the Autonomous University of Madrid also took part in the work.
The size of the fossil remains found during various excavations in 2005-2008 confirms their colossal size. The vertebrae are more than a meter wide, the femur is almost two meters high and the ribs are two meters long. In addition, two almost completely preserved articulated feet were discovered. “This is extremely rare for fossils,” the researchers say.
Its morphology is unique compared to other sauropods. “The tendency towards gigantism is quite obvious: just look at the way the limbs are attached to the waist. These are animals with a long stride, which opened the pelvis and shoulder blades to step as wide as possible.
The femur is inclined inward because they turned the waist when moving. This affects the structure of the hind legs, notes Ortega. “There are almost no fingers on the front legs, and when moving, the support was on the metacarpal bones, turned into a long kind of support, as if they were walking on tiptoes.”
The study analyzes the relationships between Garumbatitanmorellensis and other sauropod dinosaurs that lived on the Iberian Peninsula during the Lower Cretaceous era. The new species found in Morella is one of the most primitive members of a group of sauropods called Somphospondyli. This group was one of the most diverse and numerous in the Cretaceous and became extinct at the end of the Mesozoic.
In addition, the study reveals the complex evolutionary history of European sauropods living during the Cretaceous period, particularly in the Iberian Peninsula. Here there are species related to groups that lived in Asia and North America, as well as some groups close to species that lived in Africa. “This suggests that animals could move between these continents,” the researchers say.
The description of this new species also helps to understand Lower Cretaceous ecosystems, which is one of the objectives of the research being carried out at Morell. “We’re finding pieces of the puzzle that allow us to understand a little better what the structure of this part of the ecosystem is,” the scientists explain.
In this area, river beds are sometimes located very close to the coast and even reach the border with the mountainous terrain. Garumbatitan morellensis moved along this strip, moving further and further from the mouth, and crossed a
large forest area with tall trees, which could “provide food for a herd of individuals of this size.”
Future restoration of the fossil remains found at the site will provide important information to understand the early evolution of the sauropods that dominated the millions of years of the Mesozoic era.
“We still have a long way to go, but we are already on the cusp of success,” say Gasulla and Ortega. They are referring to the fossilized remains found in the depths of this region. Excavations are still ongoing, and the finds await classification and processing. The researchers hope that this heritage “will soon gain greater prominence because there is so much to show here.”
“We have an expression tota pedra fa paret (a wall is built from stones). It is this “thick” stone that strengthens our paleontological wall,” says Gasulla jokingly. The new species “is a step towards the completion of a research project” being conducted in the Els Ports area, Ortega adds. Garumbatitan morellensis is the important new piece we needed to solve our complex puzzle.
News agencies contributed to this report, edited and published by ORDO News editors.
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