Europe's first lambeosaurine dinosaur lived in the current Pyrenees

Europe's first lambeosaurine dinosaur lived in the current Pyrenees

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The lambeosaurs They are a group of hadrosaurs dinosaurs, also known as duck-billed dinosaurs, which are characterized by a prominent crest on their heads, whose function was related to communication. It consists of a hollow structure and possibly had an important role in sexual competition (as a visual appeal) and it is believed that in some species it also served to amplify the sounds emitted by the animal.

About 69 million years ago (during the Maastrichtian), the present-day Pyrenees, Iberia and part of France formed a large island known as iberoarmorican island that was part of the archipelago that during the Cretaceous It was Europe. This island was dominated by large long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs known as titanosaurs, but hadrosaur herbivores also arrived from Asia.

A study published in Cretaceus Research reveals the presence in the Els Nerets deposit (Catalonia) of the first lambeosaurine hadrosaur on the European continent and assumes that this arrival occurred some 275,000 years earlier than previously believed.

The introduction of these new groups of dinosaurs on the island occurred at times of declining sea levels, when the marine platforms were exposed and the emerged areas were temporarily connected, serving as a place of passage for the fauna.

The research is led by researcher Simone Conti, from the University of Milan, who for three years participated in the excavations carried out at the Els Nerets site organized by the Museo de la Conca Dellà (MCD) and the Insitut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP).

The last of Europe

«During several campaigns in this exceptional site we excavated up to 29 fossil remains of this lambeosaurine hadrosaur«, Says Bernat Vila, researcher at the ICP and the MCD. "We found fragments of dentition, various vertebrae, pelvic and limb remains that belonged to at least three different individuals," says the researcher.

"The presence of lambeosaurine hadrosaurs on the continent was a revolution in the ecosystems of the European Cretaceous," says Albert Prieto-Márquez, co-author of the study and specialist in hadrosaurids. In a few million years, hadrosaurs spread throughout all environments of the Ibero-Armorican island.

«From the moment the first lambeosaurine appeared, in the Pyrenees we found dozens of sites with their fossil remains, also including a great profusion of tracks and traces that show that they occupied different environments. This is a good example of the evolutionary success that this group had, ”explains Prieto-Márquez.

The fossil record of dinosaurs in Catalonia is extraordinary. The fossils they provide are the main field of study for paleontologists, and at the same time, they represent an inexhaustible source of content for interpretation centers and museums in the area that disclose a unique paleontological heritage.

Interest in pyrenean dinosaurs It is based on the fact that they are the last groups of dinosaurs that are recorded in Europe and they provide much information on ecosystems before end of Cretaceous mass extinction.

Bibliographic reference:

Simone Conti, Bernat Vila, Albert G. Sellés, Àngel Galobart, Michael J. Benton, Albert Prieto-Márquez. 2019. «The oldest lambeosaurine dinosaur from Europe: insights into the arrival of Tsintaosaurini«. Cretaceous Research.

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