Nav: Home

The fossilization process of the dinosaur remains

May 06, 2019

The site or bone bed at La Cantalera-1 is located in Teruel (Spain) and regarded as hugely important by the scientific community as it is one of the sites on the Iberian Peninsula with the greatest diversity of vertebrates of the Lower Cretaceous. Remains of dinosaurs, mammals, crocodiles, pterosaurs, lizards, tortoises, amphibians and fish dating back to approximately 130 million years ago have been discovered. A multidisciplinary piece of research carried out by researchers in the Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology and the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology at the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Science and Technology, together with the University of Zaragoza (Aragosaurus-IUCA Group), has explored not only the fossilization process (taphonomy) which took place in some of these remains, but also the internal structure displayed by the bones (palaeohistology).

Although given its importance, the site has undergone thorough investigation, "no previous investigation had tackled it from these perspectives or with the depth that we have conducted in this study", pointed out Leire Perales-Gogenola, a member of the UPV/EHU's Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology and lead author of the paper.

For their work they selected two groups of dinosaurs: ornithopods (of which there are abundant remains at the site), and ankylosaurs (known as armoured dinosaurs as they had armour consisting of bony plates). Although large fossil items exist, this research group resorted to "fragmentary remains, small pieces of bone and the dermal bones. The methodology we had to follow involved making sections in the samples and we did not want to damage the more important items," stressed the researcher.

Wetland ecosystem with a wealth of young individuals

The part of the study of the internal structures of the fossil bones (palaeohistology) "revealed that most of the ornithopod dinosaurs were young individuals. On inspecting the fossilized bones under the microscope, they were found to display the same structure as unfossilized bones as they retain all their characteristics. This enables us to identify the signs that tell us whether they belonged to adult or immature individuals; it is possible to know, for example, whether the individual in question was a large but young dinosaur or whether it was a small but adult dinosaur", explained the UPV/EHU biologist and palaeontologist. In the study of the internal part of the dermal bones they observed "various traces that other researchers had associated with a specific group of ankylosaurs, so in some cases we were able to determine more accurately what kind of dinosaurs they were".

For the taphonomic study the researcher stresses the usefulness in having analysed fragmentary remains, "as they are bones that have undergone fractures owing to the pressure of the subsequent burial itself, among other things, and this has allowed various sedimentary materials to filter through these fractures, which have been fossilized beside the bone remains; this provides hugely valuable information about the environment in which they were found". In this part of the study they were able to deduce that these bones were subjected to rapid burial and soon reached the phreatic level in which the fossilization processes had already taken place. Microbial activity in the bones, the presence of bacterial forming microbial carpets, has also been detected, and this may have encouraged the fossilization process.

The results obtained have helped to increase the available knowledge about the site and basically "the features of the ecosystem and degree of maturity of the individuals present, which had already been described in previous studies, have been confirmed. The data indicate that it was a wetland ecosystem and was used as a feeding zone for the fauna in the area. Due to the wealth of young individuals and eggshell remains, which are also very abundant at the site, it has been suggested that it could have been a breeding or feeding area", said Perales-Gogenola.

Forthcoming studies at the site anticipated by the University of Zaragoza are due to tackle the palaeohistology of the dinosaurs present at La Cantalera-1 and also to go further into the age of death of the herbivore dinosaurs, to certify whether it was a natural population or whether there is an excessive number of youngsters owing to predation issues by theropod dinosaurs (carnivorous dinosaurs that could attack young individuals more frequently than adult individuals).
-end-
Bibliographical reference

Leire Perales-Gogenola, Javier Elorza, José Ignacio Canudo, Xabier Pereda-Suberbiola
Taphonomy and palaeohistology of ornithischian dinosaur remains from the Lower
Cretaceous bonebed of La Cantalera (Teruel, Spain)
Cretaceous Research (2019)
DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2019.01.024

University of the Basque Country

Related Dinosaurs Articles:

In the shadow of the dinosaurs
Research published this Wednesday in Scientific Reports describes Clevosaurus hadroprodon, a new reptile species from Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil.
When the dinosaurs died, lichens thrived
When the asteroid hit, dinosaurs weren't the only ones that suffered.
Dinosaurs were thriving before asteroid strike that wiped them out
Dinosaurs were unaffected by long-term climate changes and flourished before their sudden demise by asteroid strike.
Did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs? New evidence points to 'maybe.'
Princeton geoscientists Blair Schoene and Gerta Keller led an international team of researchers who have assembled the first high-resolution timeline for the massive eruptions in India's Deccan Traps, determining that the largest eruption pulse occurred less than 100,000 years before the mass extinction that killed the (non-avian) dinosaurs.
Want to learn about dinosaurs? Pick up some Louisiana roadkill
Scientists are able to learn about an animal's ecosystem by studying the chemical makeup of its body, whether the animal died recently or millions of years ago.
More Dinosaurs News and Dinosaurs Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...