Paleontology in Spain
Articles in ‘Paleontology in Spain’
September 8th, 2010
The most complete fossil of a dinosaur is Spain has been found in Las Hoyas dig
in Cuenca. Concavenator corcovatus
is a previously unknown species of carnivore that lived in the Lower Cretaceous some 130m years ago. El País
The beast sports a hump-like structure on its back hence its nickname “the humpback dinosaur”, and a series of small knobs on the forearm which appear to be a link to birds:
The bumps could be analagous to the parts of modern birds’ skeletons that anchor the flight feathers. Since the knobs are unlikely to be representative of feathers on Concavenator, the researchers propose instead that they are “non-scale skin appendages”, such as tubular filaments, present in modern-day poultry. The Guardian
September 7th, 2010
The oldest remains of mammoths in the Iberian Peninsula have been found, dating back to 150,000 years ago. The last Spanish mammoths disappeared some 10,000 years go with the waning of the last ice age. Above recreation of prehistoric Iberian glacial fauna by P. Novak. El Mundo
June 8th, 2010
Spain has decided to reopen the Altamira cave complex in Cantabria after eight years being closed to visitors, despite scientists warnings’ that heat from human visitors damages the art. Visits are to resume next year on a restricted basis. The main chamber at Altamira features 21 bisons painted in ochre, red and black, which seem to charge against a low, limestone ceiling. The site was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. The caves were first restricted and then closed after scientists warned that visitors’ body heat and carbon dioxide from breath were damaging the paintings, estimated to be 14,000 to 20,000 years old. El País
On seeing the paintings of bisons, horses, fawns and wild boars, Picasso famously proclaimed, ‘after Altamira, all is decadence’. A long line of great 20th century artists from Henry Moore to Miquel Barceló have been astonished and inspired by them. See also Altmira cave paintings
The caves are inscribed as masterpieces of creative genius and as the humanity’s earliest accomplished art. UNESCO
October 17th, 2008
Rupert Glasgow has just sent me the latest news on Aragonese dinosaurs from the erudite maños at aragosaurus.com:
Great news for the “Aragosaurus” team of palaeontologists at the University of Zaragoza. This month’s issue of the prestigious Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (no. 18, vol. 3) features the description of a new dinosaur, Tastavinsaurus sanzi, by José Ignacio Canudo, Rafael Royo-Torres and Gloria Cuenca-Bescós. Tastavinsaurus sanzi is an early Cretaceous sauropod dating from the early Aptian, over 110 million years ago. This huge, plant-eating quadruped, characterized by its long neck and tail, is estimated to have measured some 17 metres in length and weighed between 15 and 20 tonnes. It belongs to the clade known as “Titanosauriformes,” which also includes the brachiosaurids and titanosaurians and as such contains some of the most gargantuan dinosaurs ever to have trampled over the planet. Its remains were first discovered by two amateur palaeontologists in the early 1990s at the site of Arsis, Peñarroya de Tastavins, in the Aragonese province of Teruel. The name Tastavinsaurus is derived from the nearby River Tastavins, which means “wine-taster” in Catalan, while the name sanzi is in homage to the Spanish palaeontologist José-Luis Sanz. The exceptionally well-preserved condition of its skeleton made it possible to define a new genus and species from the fossils. It is the most complete sauropod from the Early Cretaceous of Europe, and the most complete sauropod in Spain. It was excavated between December 1996 and January 1997 (in fairly inclement weather conditions), the fossils requiring more than 4,000 hours of preparation over two years in a specially constructed laboratory in Peñarroya. The original fossils, as well as a real-size reconstruction of Tastavinsaurus sanzi in all its splendour, can be seen at a special Dinópolis centre at Peñarroya in Teruel.
For more information: see www.aragosaurus.com (Noticias, 7 October 2008).
May 29th, 2008
The first complete skeleton of a tapir in Europe has been found in Girona at the archaeological dig, El Camp del Ninots. The fossil dates from 3.5 million years ago. Tapirs disappeared from Europe some 1.3 million years later at the start of the Pleistocene probably due to climate change. El País
April 28th, 2008
Aragonese dinosaur hominid and maño by adoption and inclination, Rupert Glasgow has kindly sent me the latest update on Spanish dinosaurs from aragosaurus, this time news of Plesiosaur fossils on the coast of Asturias.
The latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (March, 2008) features a paper entitled “A Juvenile Plesiosaur from the Pliensbachian (Lower Jurassic) of Asturias, Spain”.
Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles that flourished through much of the Mesozoic Era, from the Upper Triassic to the Cretaceous. Along with the ichthyosaurs and the pliosaurs, they were classic “sea-monsters” or “sea-serpents” from the age of dinosaurs. Famously described as “a snake threaded through the body of a turtle”, or as resembling some strange cross between a lizard, a crocodile and a turtle, they combined barrel-like bodies, four flippers and a mouthful of sharp teeth: they were powerful and highly successful predators. Later forms from the Cretaceous reached lengths of 15 metres and had exceedingly long necks. Among cryptozoologists, the plesiosaur has traditionally been one of the favourite candidates as a possible Loch Ness Monster.
According to the authors of the paper, the size of the specimen found in Asturias suggests that it was an immature individual with an estimated body length of 1.8 metres. The fossil remains include eight vertebral centra, seven neural arches and sixteen ribs, which were recovered at the foot of the Santa Mera sea-cliffs, near Villaviciosa. They are currently on display in the Jurassic Museum of Asturias (MUJA).
The bones are excellently preserved, yet as the incomplete nature of the specimen makes precise identification impossible, the authors assign it to indeterminate Plesiosauroidea. It is the most complete plesiosaur yet found in Spain, one of the few specimens of young plesiosaur worldwide, and also one of the few specimens of plesiosaur dating from the Pliensbachian, some 183-89 million years ago.
For more information: see www.aragosaurus.com (Noticias, 19 April 2008)
March 26th, 2008
Oldest hominid in Europe found in Atapuerca
Scientists have discovered the oldest hominid remains in western Europe. A jawbone and teeth discovered at the famous Atapuerca site in northern Spain have been dated between 1.1 and 1.2 million years old. (BBC). The remains beat the previous record by 500,000 years (El Pais). Stone tools and animal bones were also found with tell-tale cut marks from butchering by humans.
February 5th, 2008
Best thread of the month on the forum goes to this fascinating piece of hypothetical speculation started by Steve T and followed up by several others. Could modern African elephants have also lived in Iberia? Steve T:
“Aristotle said around 350 BC that elephants were numerous in the lands around the Pillars of Hercules (straits of Gibraltar). When this has been quoted it has been understood to mean that there were elephants on the ‘African side’, as there is later historical evidence of elephants in North African eg Hannibal’s elephants (except his own personal elephant, which is believed to have been Asian …and bigger than the rest, which were North African elephants). Aristotle may have wanted to include Iberia too, as having elephants but this not made clear at all. What we do know is that elephants are excellent swimmers. The Straits of Gibraltar are only 14 km wide, which is nothing for an elephant. So, if there were elephant populations on the ‘Moroccan side’, there is a good chance that there were populations on the Spanish side or at least elephants were occasional or even regular visitors.” Read the arguments
November 17th, 2007
Aragonese dinosaur man Rupert Glasgow of the excellent aragosaurus has kindly sent me this news review of their recent work with dinosaurs.
theropod dinosaur tooth (aragosaurus)
New Lower Cretaceous Dinosaur Site Found
The search for vertebrate fossils from the Lower Cretaceous of Teruel (part of a regional-government backed project) has borne fruit in the form of fossils from a new site. The location in question is the Aragonese town of Miravete de la Sierra, where a number of dinosaur teeth have recently come to light.These discoveries have been presented to the scientific community at the international palaeontology congress held at Salas de los Infantes (Burgos, Spain) from 13-15 September and at the meeting of the Spanish Palaeontology Society at Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia, Spain).
The findings include isolated teeth from various small theropod dinosaurs (carnivores), as well as tooth fragments from spinosaurid theropods and iguanodontid ornithopods. This latter group comprises medium-sized and large plant-eaters, of which the most famous one is Iguanodon. At present the material recovered is too fragmentary to be able to provide a more specific classification.
The discoveries represent an extension of the ongoing research being carried out in Teruel by the Grupo Aragosaurus, the Mesozoic and Quaternary Vertebrate Palaeontology Group of the University of Zaragoza.Let’s hope this new area proves to be as rich in fossils as Galve, Josa or Peñarroya de Tastavins. For more information: see www.aragosaurus.com (Noticias, 9 Oct 2007)
Found: Spain’s most modern dinosaur ichnites
The Grupo Aragosaurus has recently discovered a whole new cluster of ichnites produced by hadrosaur dinosaurs (a group of “duck-billed” herbivores) from the Upper Maastrichtian of the Pyrenees, near the town of Serraduy in Huesca, Aragon.
Sites of ichnites, or fossilized footprints, from the end of the Cretaceous are rare in the Iberian Peninsular. The only other one currently known in Aragon is to be found at Arén, also in Huesca. Thus the great interest generated by this new discovery of ichnites in rocks from the Upper Maastrichtian, just over 65 million years ago. The footprints in question were produced by hadrosaur dinosaurs sinking into the mud of ancient rivers. A number of such ichnites are in evidence, clearly enough preserved to make out the individual toes. Together with other footprints from north of Barcelona, they represent the most modern record of dinosaur ichnites in the Iberian Peninsular, and are among the most modern in the world.
At present scientists are still unsure of the exact timing of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (or K-T boundary), when the meteorite impact took place, but it is known that these ichnites were formed a few thousand years prior to the extinction of the dinosaurs. For this reason, the ichnites are of great scientific interest, although they are not spectacular enough to warrant exhibition, for the time being at least. For more information see: www.aragosaurus.com (Noticias, 19 July 2007)
November 7th, 2007
Intersting news item from the BBC on the existence of giant hyenas, sabretoothed cats, giraffes and zebras in Spain 1.8 million years ago.
“The creatures’ remains were among a vast fossil hoard unearthed at an ancient hyena den in Granada. The area appears to have been a crossroads where European animals mixed with species from Africa and Asia. About 4,000 fossils have been found at the unique site. They also include gazelles, wolves, wild boar and lynx. Read on the BBC + Project site here (Thanks Clive)
The brown hyena lived in Europe 1.8 million years ago