Small and feathered, ferocious carnivores that ran on two powerful legs, and giants with necks so long we’d have to put food for them on the roofs of our buildings. A multitude of life forms from the age of the dinosaurs left their traces in the territory that we humans now dominate. Some of these remains are rare to find and others stand out for their exquisite conservation. In this article we talk about three dinosaurs that inhabited Spain.
Spain has interesting fossil deposits. Of course, Atapuerca, in Burgos, stands out as one of the best archaeological and paleontological sites to study the evolution of the human being. But not only do we have important hominid remains in our territory, but we can also go back millions of years to track down the dinosaurs that walked the Iberian Peninsula.
Of course, to say the Iberian Peninsula or Spain is to fall into ignorant presentism. When the dinosaurs ruled the earth, during the Mesozoic , the continents did not have the distribution that we recognize today. At the beginning of the age of the dinosaurs, the entire landmass was pressed together, known as Pangea . About 175 million years ago the continents began to separate until today, in which their movements continue. In that continental mass, what is now Spain occupied a central place, so neither Spain nor the peninsula for that matter. What is clear is that dinosaurs passed through this piece of land and, for example, the fossils that appear in the (now yes) Spanish deposits. And since we have a good assortment to choose from, this time we are going to see three species of dinosaurs of different sizes, from the smallest to a true giant from the past.
The remains of this species were found in the Catalan Pyrenees in paleontological interventions that took place in 2003. Its name means “unexpected tamarin”, based on a creature from Pyrenean folklore that is difficult to find. Indeed, this fossil was the first and only sample of the jinfengopterygine troodontid in Europe. Wow, that’s a pretty unique fossil.
It was a small dinosaur and lived about 66 million years ago, not far from the time of the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs. We can imagine it covered in feathers , with wings of medium size compared to its body, since it would be between 1.5 and 2 meters long, with a tail as long as its body that would help direct its flight. Although the researchers believe that more than flying, they were gliders , like the current chickens. He barely exceeded one meter in height and 20 kilos in weight. Their food included small animals or carrion, which they could comfortably tear apart with their strong jaws and the claws of their two powerful legs.
“The humpbacked hunter of Cuenca” is the only known species of the extinct Concavenator, which lived between 130 and 125 million years ago, at the beginning of the Cretaceous period. Popularly called “Pepito”, his remains, excellently preserved, were found on the current semi-arid plateau of Las Hoyas , a site in Cuenca that at that time would be a subtropical wetland. Along with the place where it was found, its name is explained by the characteristic hump that rose from the lower part of the back of this dinosaur to the hip (what would be our lower back). It could measure between four and six meters long and was a theropod, that is, it belonged to the group of famous carnivorous dinosaurs that walked on two legs , such as the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Velociraptor . It is a specimen that has generated an interesting study about the origin of feathers in theropods. “Pepito” could have sported a primitive plumage, which would go back in time the current chronologies that indicated the beginning of the feathered theropods.
Nominated for one of the coolest dinosaur names, “it is one of the most complete titanosauriform sauropods from the Early Cretaceous of Europe”, according to what we can read in the research led by Fidel Torcida Fernández-Baldor, geologist and director of the Salas Dinosaur Museum of the Infantes, in Burgos. Its name is a tribute to the American actor and director Clint Eastwood , whose famous movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was filmed near where the fossil was found. Its remains were found between 2003 and 2006, but it was not described until 2017. It lived 125 million years ago and we are dealing with a giant that would weigh 35 tons and could reach 27 meters in length, and, with its very long neck, would have a height that would raise its head to 16 meters . We are facing one of the tallest dinosaurs discovered in Europe.
Ortega, F. et al. 2010. A bizarre, humped Carcharodontosauria (Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Spain. Nature 467, 203-206. DOI: 10.1038/nature09181.Sellés, AG et al. 2021. A fast-growing basal troodontid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the latest Cretaceous of Europe. Scientific Reports 11, 4855. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-83745-5.Torcida Fernández-Baldor, F. et al. 2017. Europatitan eastwoodi, a new sauropod from the lower Cretaceous of Iberia in the initial radiation of somphospondylans in Laurasia. Peer J 5:e3409 . DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3409.