New species of 'sail-backed' dinosaur found in Spain

December 16, 2015
Picture of a life reconstruction of Morelladon beltrani. Credit: Carlos de Miguel Chaves

Scientists describe a 'sail-backed' dinosaur species named Morelladon beltrani, which inhabited the Iberian landmass ~125 million years ago, according to a study published Dec. 16, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by José Miguel Gasulla from Grupo Biología Evolutiva (UNED-UAM) and colleagues.

The specimen the authors of this study describe is a partial skeleton mainly composed of dorsal and sacral vertebrae and pelvic bones. Morelladon is a medium-sized styracosternan ornithopod of around 6 meters long and 2.5 meters high, similar in body length and proportions to its relative Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis. The most conspicuous feature of this new, relatively gracile ornithopod is the presence of tall neural spines on dorsal vertebrae, which the authors suggest was possibly a 'sail' used for thermoregulation, or as a storage place for fat to be used during periods of low food supply.

The discovery of Morelladon beltrani in the same area and time period with its relatives Iguanodon bernissartensis and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis may indicate a particularly diverse medium-large bodied styracosternan assemblage in the eastern Iberian landmass during the late Barremian, ~125 million years ago.

Co-author Dr. Escaso added, "We knew the dinosaur fauna from Morella was similar to those of other contemporary European sites. However, this discovery shows an interesting rise of the iguanodontoid diversity in southern Europe ~125 million years ago."

Photograph of dorsal vertebrae series of the holotype specimen of Morelladon beltrani (CMP-MS-03).CMP-MS-03-06, -07 (including CMP-MS-03-17 and -29) and -05 (including CMP-MS-03-08) in left lateral (A) view. Interpretive drawing of CMP-MS-03-05 (including CMP-MS-03-08 neural spine) in left lateral (B) view. Abbreviations: ns, neural spine; poz, postzygapophysis; pre, prezygapophysis; rec, vertical recess; tp, transverse process. Credit: Gasulla et al.

Explore further: Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

More information: José Miguel Gasulla et al. A New Sail-Backed Styracosternan (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda) from the Early Cretaceous of Morella, Spain, PLOS ONE (2015). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144167

Related Stories

Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

October 8, 2015

Experts have described one of the most complete sauropod dinosaur braincases ever found in Europe. The find could help scientists uncover some of the mysteries of how dinosaur brains operated, including their intellectual ...

Meet the first Iberian lynx on the Iberian Peninsula

October 28, 2015

The remains of an Iberian lynx specimen which lived 1.6 million years ago - the oldest ever discovered - were found resting in a cave in Barcelona (Spain). This discovery not only allows us to shed light on the origins of ...

New Sesotho-named dinosaur from South Africa

June 24, 2015

South African and Argentinian palaeontologists have discovered a new 200 million year old dinosaur from South Africa, and named it Sefapanosaurus, from the Sesotho word "sefapano".

Recommended for you

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.