Abditosaurus kuehnei roamed our planet approximately 70.5 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.
This plant-eating dinosaur inhabited the large Ibero-Armorican island, which included the modern-day areas of south-western France, Spain and Portugal.
The ancient creature was 17.5 m (57 feet) long, weighed 14 tons, and belonged to a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs called Titanosauria.
“Titanosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Europe tend to be small or medium-sized due to their evolution in insular conditions,” said Dr. Bernat Vila, a paleontologist with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Museu de la Conca Dellà.
“Between 83 and 66 million years ago, Europe was a large archipelago made up of dozens of islands.”
“The species that evolved there tend to be relatively small, or even dwarves compared to their relatives living in large landmasses, due primarily to the limitation of food resources in islands.”
“It is a recurring phenomenon in the history of life on Earth, we have several examples worldwide in the fossil record of this evolutionary trend.”
“That’s why we were astonished by the large dimensions of this specimen.”
A total of 53 Abditosaurus kuehnei’s skeletal elements were found at the paleontological site of Orcau-1 in Catalonia, Spain.
They represent the most complete titanosaur skeleton thus far discovered in Europe.
“We were really lucky, it is unusual to find such complete specimens in the Pyrenees due to its troubled geologic history,” said Dr. Àngel Galobart, director of the Museu de la Conca Dellà and a paleontologist with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
The paleontologists think that Abditosaurus kuehnei represented Saltasaurinae, a group of titanosaurs from South America and Africa, different from smaller European titanosaurs.
This species likely arrived on the Ibero-Armorican island some 70.5 million years ago, probably as a result of a global and regional sea-level drop that reactivated ancient dispersal routes between Africa and Europe.
“Other evidence support the migration hypothesis,” said Dr. Albert Sellés, a paleontologist with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Museu de la Conca Dellà.
“At the same site, we found eggshells of dinosaur species known to have inhabited Gondwana, the southernmost continent.”
“During the Jurassic and Cretaceous, Iberia was the point of connection between Eurasia, Africa and North America,” said Dr. Miguel Moreno, a paleontologist in the NOVA School of Science and Technology at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the Museu de Lourinhã, and the Facultad de Ciencias at the Universidad de Zaragoza.
“Studying how Abditosaurus kuehnei relates to the fauna of these continents helps us to understand when there were connections between them, and when they became isolated.”
The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.