Protathlitis cinctorrensis A New Spinosaurid

By | September 1st, 2023|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

A new species of spinosaurid named Protathlitis cinctorrensis has been described from fossils found in Castellón Province in north-eastern Spain. The dinosaur is estimated to have measured around ten to eleven metres in length. It has been described based on a right maxilla and five, sturdy tail bones (caudal vertebrae) excavated from the Lower Cretaceous Arcillas de Morella Formation. In addition, a previously described tooth has been assigned to this species.

The discovery of another European spinosaurid taxon adds weight to the hypothesis that these theropods originated in Laurasia. Later, during the Barremian-Aptian faunal stages, these dinosaurs migrated into Africa and Asia, where they diversified.

In Europe, the baryonchines dominated, whilst in Africa, it was the spinosaurines that were most abundant.

Protathlitis cinctorrensis on the beach.
Protathlitis cinctorrensis, near the coastal areas where it lived. Picture credit: Grup Guix.

Protathlitis cinctorrensis Honouring Villarreal C.F.

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports” the researchers propose that this dinosaur is nested with the Spinosauridae family as a basal baryonychine. As such, it is the first baryonychine dinosaur species known from the Arcillas de Morella Formation.

The genus Protathlitis was named in reference to the UEFA Europa League title won by the Spanish football club Villarreal C.F. in 2021. It is also a tribute to the club centenary celebrated this year (2023).

Protathlitis cinctorrensis caudal vertebra excavation.
Palaeontologist Begoña Poza, co-author of the work, excavating fossil 5ANA-78, in the fifth digging campaign at the ANA site (Cinctorres, Castellón). Picture credit: Grup Guix.

Everything Dinosaur contacted one of the authors of the study, curious to find out more about the Villarreal C.F connection.

Andrés Santos-Cubedo explained that the dinosaur’s name celebrates the UEFA Europa League title.

He added:

“Because three of the scientists who wrote the paper, live in Villarreal, and one of us was at the final in Gdansk (Poland).”

The species name for this dinosaur, “cinctorrensis” is dedicated to Cinctorres and its inhabitants. This municipality is in the Els Ports region within the province of Castellón.

A Diverse Dinosaur Fauna

The discovery of P. cinctorrensis will help palaeontologists to better understand the evolutionary history of this enigmatic theropod group. In addition, it confirms that the Iberian Peninsula in the Early Cretaceous was home to a highly diverse dinosaur fauna. Dinosaurs described from this region include iguanodontids, titanosaurs, hypsilophodonts as well as a second spinosaurid – Vallibonavenatrix cani. V. cani is the first member of the spinosaurine subfamily to be described from fossils found in the Arcillas de Morella Formation.

Protathlitis cinctorrensis life restoration.
Recreation of the dinosaur Protathlitis cinctorrensis, located at the ANA site, Cinctorres (Castellón). Picture credit: Grup Guix.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release and personal correspondence with one of the authors of the study in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “A new spinosaurid dinosaur species from the Early Cretaceous of Cinctorres (Spain)” by Andrés Santos-Cubedo and Carlos de Santisteban published in Scientific Reports.