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North of the Iberian Peninsula is one of the most important places in the world for the study of the extinction of dinosaurs

08-04-2021

The North of the Iberian Peninsula is one of the most significant places in the world for the study of the extinction of dinosaurs, as confirmed by the study carried out by an international team with the participation of researchers from the NOVA School of Science and Technology and the Lourinhã Museum.

In the Pyrenees of Aragon, numerous vertebrate fossils have been recovered and identified as the last dinosaurs in Europe. The presence of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in this region has been well known for almost 25 years and has been highlighted in the press since 1997 with the discoveries of fossil bones in the vicinity of the city of Arén (Areny).

This recent work, published in the prestigious Geosciences magazine, compiles the thousands of vertebrate fossils recovered in different parts of the region, identifying the species and groups of animals to which they belonged, and placing them in a geological context that allows them to be ordered chronologically to refine their study. In addition, these deposits were compared with other fossils of the terminal Late Cretaceous, found in European locations such as France and Romania. In total, close to 60 fossil sites have been identified, with fossils of bones, eggshells, and icnites (fossilized footprints) of dinosaurs, birds, crocodiles, turtles, pterosaurs, amphibians, and lizards, some thousands of years before the great mass extinction. All these fossils referring to the time span that covers the last half million years of the Cretaceous.

The leading author of the study, Manuel Pérez Pueyo, highlights the exceptional character of the region, since this area of ​​the Pyrenees, known geologically as the Tremp Basin and which also includes several deposits in Catalonia, is one of the few places in the world that allow us to know what was the biodiversity of the dinosaurs just before the Cretaceous / Paleogenic limit. Eduardo Puértolas, NOVA School of Science and Technology and the Museum of Lourinhã, and co-supervisor of the Doctoral Thesis of Manuel Pérez Pueyo, explains that these results show a great abundance and variety of fauna during the last half million years of the Cretaceous so that the dinosaurs would not present a previous decline before its extinction, indicating that its disappearance was relatively sudden and not gradual. The paleontologist also comments that they are the most modern dinosaur sites in Europe and that only in some areas of the United States and Asia were dinosaurs of the same age. The Paleontologist of NOVA, Miguel Moreno-Azanza, says that this review opens the door to new discoveries in the area and adds the importance of extending paleontological studies in the Upper European Cretaceous.

Photo: Manuel Pérez Pueyo (Aragosaurus-IUCA)