Dinosaur ribcage unearthed in Portugal backyard
In early August, a team of Portuguese and Spanish researchers exhumed parts of what they believe is a fossilized brachiosaurid sauropod skeleton in Monte Agudo, Pombal, in Portugal, according to a news release last week.
Sauropods — which included the world’s largest dinosaurs — were herbivorous dinosaurs recognized by their long necks and tails. Based on the remains uncovered, the researchers estimate that the dinosaur was around 12 meters (39 feet) high and 25 meters (82 feet) long.
The team has so far unearthed important parts of the skeleton, including vertebrae and ribs.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position,” said Elisabete Malafaia, postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, in the release.
“This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic.”
The discovery is part of an ongoing project, which began in 2017.
In that year, while construction work was being carried out at the property, the owner noticed several fossilized bone fragments in his backyard, according to the release.
He contacted the research team, which began the first excavation that year.
Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist and professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who was not involved in the project, called it “gobsmacking — a dinosaur ribcage sticking out of somebody’s garden.”
“(It goes to show) you can potentially find them anywhere there is rock of the right age and right type for preserving Jurassic-aged bones, whether it’s in the badlands or someone’s backyard,” he told CNN, adding that finding dinosaur remains involves chance and circumstance. In dry badland terrain, erosion by wind and water exposes rock and the topography is often a hotspot for fossils.
Dinosaurs from the Brachiosauridae group, which the skeleton is thought to belong to, lived between the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous periods around 160 to 100 million years ago, the press release added.
The preservation of the skeleton found in Pombal indicates that more of it could be discovered, with further excavation at the site planned.