Skull of Huge Dinosaur on Show at Dinosaur Exhibition
The prepared skull of a huge, herbivorous dinosaur that once roamed the land that was to eventually become Spain has gone on display at the Dinopolis Foundation in the town of Teruel, in the province of Aragon (eastern Spain). During the Late Jurassic, this part of Europe was a lush tropical paradise, criss-crossed with rivers and this habitat supported an extensive and diverse range of dinosaurs including large sauropods, one of which is the largest European dinosaur known to science.
The dinosaur is Turiasaurus riodevensis (the name means “Teruel lizard”, as Turia is the Latin word for Teruel) and although far from complete, the fossils ascribed to this specimen including the skull which has now been carefully prepared and pieced together suggest that this dinosaur could have reached lengths in excess of thirty metres and perhaps weighed as much as forty tonnes.
Formally named and described in 2006, the thirty-five separate bones that make up the skull, plus seven peg-like teeth were presented this week at the Dinopolis Foundation, the name of the town’s dinosaur exhibit. These bones helped scientists to recognise T. riodevensis as a separate species when the bones were discovered in 2005 during excavations at the Barrihonda-El Humero, fossiliferous strata, which dates from the Upper Jurassic/Lower Cretaceous boundary.
From measurements taken from a 1.79 metre long humerus (upper arm bone), the scientists have concluded that this dinosaur was one of the biggest animals on Earth approximately 145 million years ago, bigger than the better known sauropods of the United States whose fossil also date from the end of the Jurassic, dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus and Camarasaurus.
The skull will go onto form a centre piece for the site’s, dinosaurs of the Iberian Peninsula exhibition. Ironically, the skulls of sauropods are extremely rare in the fossil record. The heads of these huge herbivores do not seem to get fossilised very often. Compared to the rest of the animal the heads are relatively small. For example, the head of another sauropod, Diplodocus is only about the same size as that of a horse, but the Diplodocus weighed as much as fifteen tonnes and would have measured in excess of thirty metres in length.
The heads seem to have fallen away from the caudal vertebrae as the carcase deteriorated, once detached they are rarely preserved as fossils to be found by palaeontologists millions of years later. Most of the sauropod dinosaurs seen in Natural History Museums do not have the correct head on their bodies, rather than display a head-less skeleton, curators model a composite skull or provide a replica skull from a close dinosaur relative.
To read more about Europes’ Largest Dinosaur: Which is the Biggest Dinosaur Known from Europe?
Only a handful of sauropods have skull material assigned to their genera, these animals include Giraffatitan from Africa, Mamenchisaurus from China, Turiasaurus from Spain and Apatosaurus from the United States.