The largest dinosaur fossil ever discovered in Europe may be a gigantic Jurassic fossil found in Portugal. While the species has yet to be determined, the sauropod is already breaking records for size. Scientists recently discovered part of the fossilized skeleton of a giant sauropod dinosaur at the Monte Agudo paleontological site in Pombal, Portugal.
Recently discovered in Portugal are what appears to be the largest dinosaur ever found in Europe. So far, a huge ribcage from a long-necked sauropod, possibly a brachiosaurid, that lived in the second half of the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, has been discovered by experts (201.3 million to 145 million years ago).
The bones are already breaking records, although the study team has yet to determine which species they belong to.
In 2017, paleontologists began work on the location when a local landowner in Pombal, Portugal, discovered several bone fragments protruding from his garden. He briefed local authorities, who in turn briefed nearby researchers.
"At that time, we uncovered some poorly preserved vertebrae and rib fragments," said Francisco Ortega, a key member of the excavation team and a paleontologist at the National University of Distance Learning in Madrid.
They have since discovered a remarkably undamaged ribcage, allowing them to determine the dinosaur's size.
It was huge in every way. The dinosaur was thought to have weighed more than an adult humpback whale, weighing roughly 48 tons (44 metric tons), reaching up to 12 feet, and measuring over 82 feet (25 meters) from nose to tail tip.
Brachiosaurids, a group of sauropod dinosaurs known for their long, pool noodle necks and long forelimbs, lived during the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous (145 million to 66 million years ago), and the structure of the skeleton seems to be consistent with that of the brachiosaurid until now.
These enormous creatures gnawed at the forest canopy leaves. The most likely candidate for the newly discovered giant among the brachiosaurids is Lusotitan atalaiensis, which lived on the Iberian Peninsula 152 million years ago.
"It's very exciting to think that we might be in the presence of a new specimen of this little-known sauropod," Ortega said.
Paleontologists from Portugal and Spain worked together to unearth the massive fossil at the Monte Agudo site in August 2022.
Experts say the dinosaur is still too young to be classified as a brachiosaurid, and identifying the species may be difficult even after excavation is over.
According to Ortega, only a few discoveries of this particular dinosaur group were made during the Upper [Late] Jurassic period of Europe.
Additionally, size estimates of the recently found fossil indicate that this particular dinosaur was larger than any L. atalaiensis human ever discovered (though the new fossils may represent an unusually large individual of this species). Or, it may turn out to be another species entirely.
The Pombal City Council will assist with the preparation of the bones at Pombal after the fossil excavation is complete. In Ortega's view, the recreated specimen will have "enormous museum potential" once preserved, studied and put together.