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New species of ‘sail-backed’ dinosaur found in Spain

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015,16:43 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | Scientists have discovered a new species of unusual ‘sail-backed’ dinosaur in Spain which inhabited the Iberian landmass about 125 million years ago. Researchers from National University of Distance Education (UNED) in Spain described the species Morelladon beltrani.

The specimen is a partial skeleton mainly composed of dorsal and sacral vertebrae and pelvic bones, researchers said. 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 researchers 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, around 125 million years ago.

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 around 125 million years ago, said Fernando Escaso from UNED’s Evolutionary Biology Group.

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