A recent paper published in Scientific Reports unveils an exciting discovery in Castellón, Spain—a dinosaur specimen that may represent a new species of spinosaurid. This finding suggests that the Iberian Peninsula was a diverse region for medium-to-large-bodied spinosaurid dinosaurs, shedding light on their origin and evolution.
Spinosaurs are a group of carnivorous dinosaurs known for their large size and bipedal stance. Familiar examples include Spinosaurus and Baryonyx. While it is believed that spinosaurids originated in Europe and later migrated to Africa and Asia, evidence of their existence in Spain has primarily relied on fossilized teeth.
The research team, led by Andrés Santos-Cubedo, conducted an analysis of fossil fragments discovered in the Arcillas de Morella Formation. These fragments consist of a right jaw bone, one tooth, and five vertebrae, and date back to the late Barremian period of the Early Cretaceous, approximately 127 to 126 million years ago. Based on these remains, the authors estimate that the specimen measured around 10 to 11 meters in length. By comparing the specimen to data on other spinosaurids, they determined its evolutionary relationship to other species.
By conducting a comparative analysis of the specimen alongside other spinosaurids, the researchers have ascertained that it represents both a novel species and a new genus within the spinosaurid family. The designation assigned to this remarkable find is Protathlitis cinctorrensis. The genus name, Protathlitis, derives from the Greek term for “champion,” emphasizing the exceptional nature of this discovery. Meanwhile, the species epithet, cinctorrensis, pays tribute to the locality of its unearthing, the town of Cinctorres.
According to the study’s authors, this newly identified species could provide significant insights into the emergence of spinosaurids during the Early Cretaceous period in Laurasia. Laurasia, an extensive landmass located predominantly in the northern hemisphere, seemingly served as the initial habitat for spinosaurids. Within Laurasia, two distinct subgroups of spinosaurid species flourished in western Europe. It is speculated that these spinosaurids subsequently undertook migrations to Africa and Asia, where they experienced further diversification. Notably, in Europe, baryonychines such as Protathlitis held sway, while in Africa, spinosaurines like Spinosaurus were particularly abundant.
Source: Nature Publishing Group