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Giant European dinosaur found in Spain

An artist's drawing of the giant sauropod. Image Copyright AAAS/Science/ Illustration: Carin L. Cain.

Fossils of a giant Sauropod, found in Spain, reveal that Europe was home to giant dinosaurs in the Late Jurassic period -- about 150 million years ago. Giant dinosaurs have previously been found mainly in the New World and Africa.

These are the bones of the giant sauropod's forelimb. The top bone, the humerus, is the size of an adult human.

This dinosaur may have been the most massive terrestrial animal in Europe and Spanish researchers found dozens of sauropod bone fossils at a well-known fossil site from the Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous periods in Teruel, Spain. The research appears in the 22 December issue of Science.

The new Sauropod is called Turiasaurus riodevensis, and is named for the Teruel area (Turia) where it was found.

The turiasaurus is estimated to have weighed between 40 and 48 tons (the weight of six or seven adult male elephants!) and is comparable to the world's largest known dinosaurs, including Argentinosaurus and Brachiosaurus. At its estimated length, between 30 and 37 meters, the sauropod would be as long as an NBA basketball court. "The humerus the long bone in the foreleg that runs from the shoulder to the elbow was as large as an adult," said Brooks Hanson, Science's deputy editor, physical sciences. The claw of the first digit of its pes, or hoof, is the size of an NFL football.

The excavation site in Spain where researchers found the giant Sauropod

In addition to the humerus, researchers also found fragments of skull, scapula, femur, tibia and fibula, as well as teeth, vertebrae, ribs and phalanges.

This finding allows the authors to group several sauropod remains from Portugal, France, United Kingdom and other Spanish areas in a new clade, or branch, of dinosaurs that has more primitive limb and bone structures than other giant sauropods that have been found on other continents in Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous rocks.

Analyses indicate that the new giant dinosaur represents a member of a formerly unrecognized group of primitive European eusauropod dinosaurs that evolved in the Jurassic.

The giant sauropod fossils were found in an area that has also yielded isolated elements of other sauropods, theropod teeth, remains of stegosaurs, as well as fish and turtles.