Nav: Home

Unique skin impressions of the last dinosaurs discovered in Barcelona

October 13, 2016

A geological research conducted in the village of Vallcebre, near Barcelona, to study the origins of rock sediments from the Late Cretaceous period (approx. 66 million years ago) has revealed an extraordinary artefact. Researchers discovered the impression of skin scales left by a dinosaur which had lain down in the mud. During that period, the area was a muddy region corresponding to the banks of a river. As chance had it, that muddy region where the animal's scales had left their mark was later covered with sand which, in the course of thousands of years, finally petrified to form sandstone and thus become the sedimentary rock which preserves the impression recently discovered by the researchers. The sand acted as a mould and therefore, what actually can be seen on the rock is not really the impression, but the relief of the animal's original skin.

The characteristics of the discovery are unique, given that the Late Cretaceous period corresponds to the moment short before dinosaurs became extinct, there are few places on Earth containing sandstone from this period, and characterising these dinosaurs is very important in order to understand how and why they disappeared. "This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event, in all of the world", highlights UAB researcher Victor Fondevilla, main author of the research. "There are very few samples of fossilised skin registered, and the only sites with similar characteristics can be found in United States and Asia", Fondevilla states. He goes on to say: "Other dinosaur skin fossils have been found in the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal and Asturias, but they correspond to other more distant periods".

The shape of the scales observed on the rock show a pattern characteristic of the skin of some dinosaurs: in a form of a rose with a central bump in the shape of a polygon, surrounded by five or six more bumps. However, the scales are large, too large for the typical size of carnivorous dinosaurs and hadrosaurs roaming this area 66 million years ago. "The fossil probably belongs to a large herbivore sauropod, maybe a titanosaurus, since we discovered footprints from the same species very close to the rock with the skin fossil" Fondevilla says.

In fact, two skin impressions were found, one measuring approximately 20 centimetres wide, and the other slightly smaller, measuring only 5 centimetres wide, separated by a 1.5 metre distance and probably made by the same animal. "The fact that they are impression fossils is evidence that the animal is from the sedimentary rock period, one of the last dinosaurs to live on the planet. When bones are discovered, dating is more complicated because they could have moved from the original sediment during all these millions of years", Fondevilla states.

The finding verifies the excellent fossil registry of the Pyrenees in terms of dinosaurs living in Europe little before they became extinct throughout the planet. "The sites in Berguedà, Pallars Jussà, Alt Urgell and La Noguera, in Catalonia, have provided proof of five different groups of dinosaurs: titanosaurs, ankylosaurids, theropods, hadrosaurs and rhabdodontids", explains Àngel Galobart, head of the Mesozoic research group at the ICP and director of the Museum of Conca Dellà in Isona. "The sites in the Pyrenees are very relevant from a scientific point of view, since they allow us to study the cause of their extinction in a geographic point far away from the impact of the meteorite", Galobart explains.

The research, published in Geological Magazine, was led by Víctor Fondevilla and Oriol Oms from the UAB Department of Geology, in collaboration with Bernat Vila and Àngel Galobart, both from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) and the Museum of Conca Dellà.
-end-


Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Related Dinosaur Articles:

Japan's largest complete dinosaur skeleton discovered
The complete skeleton of an eight-meter-long dinosaur has been unearthed from marine deposits dating back 72 million years at Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, making it the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan, according to researchers.
First baby of a gigantic Oviraptor-like dinosaur belongs to a new species
First baby of a gigantic Oviraptor-like dinosaur belongs to a new species.
'Last African dinosaur' discovered in Moroccan mine
One of the last dinosaurs living in Africa before their extinction 66 million years ago has been discovered in a phosphate mine in northern Morocco.
Headless dinosaur reunited with its skull, one century later
Researchers at the University of Alberta have matched the headless skeleton to a Corythosaurus skull from the university's Paleontology Museum that had been collected in 1920 by George Sternberg to the headless dinosaur.
What can we learn from dinosaur proteins?
Researchers recently confirmed it is possible to extract proteins from 80-million-year-old dinosaur bones.
More Dinosaur News and Dinosaur 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

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.