Spanish Discoveries show Thriving Dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous
Spanish scientists have announced the discovery of a large dinosaur bonebed containing the remains of numerous dinosaurs, so far eight species of dinosaur have been identified amongst the 8,000 fossils unearthed.
The site, near the city of Cuenca in western Spain is being heralded as one of the largest dinosaur bonebeds found in Europe, although it will have to go a long way to beat the amazing plateosaur bonebeds discovered recently on the Swiss/German border.
To read article on Swiss bonebeds: Europe’s Largest Mass Dinosaur Grave to Date Discovered.
However, the Spanish site, consists of sediments laid down in the Upper Cretaceous, approximately 80 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.
Late Cretaceous Bonebed
The site was discovered in June 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 100 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.
Find dinosaur models here: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.
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 65 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 dromaeosaurid (fast-running, small, bipedal carnivores similar to Velociraptor).
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.