Stone block reveals dinosaur find

2013-04-09 13:05
This photo shows that a new species of tyrannosaur, Y huali, it had feathers on its tail. (Zang Hailong, Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, AP)

This photo shows that a new species of tyrannosaur, Y huali, it had feathers on its tail. (Zang Hailong, Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, AP)

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Rehburg-Loccum - Palaeontologists have uncovered over 28 fossilised bones of a Europasaurus, a dinosaur that was named in honour of European unity, in a stone block found in the Harz region of Germany.

"It is our best find in the last 14 years," said Nils Knoetscke, scientific director at Dinosaur Park Muenchehagen.

"There is probably half a dinosaur in the stone block."

Thanks to modern technology, scientists have even been able to discover the animal's probable cause of death. The Europasaurus is a form of long-necked herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Jurassic period on an island in what is today the Lower Saxony basin.

The site where the latest fossilised bones were found was first discovered in 1998 and has since become famous thanks to the high amount of dinosaur remains scientists continue to uncover there. The Europasaurus genus was officially named in 2006.

Around 1 500 bones from nearly two dozen dinosaurs have been uncovered at the site since the first dinosaur tooth was found there about 14 years ago. However, palaeontologists say the latest find is particularly special.

3D model

"Only one bone was sticking out but we immediately thought that the block had potential," Knoetschke said.

"This bone density is exceptionally high," added project leader Oliver Wings from the State Museum in Hanover. The arrangement of the bones can help shed light on how deep the water was at that time.

The thinking is that around 154 million years ago when the region was probably made up of mud-flats, the animal stumbled into some lime sludge, died after a short struggle and sank below the surface.

The scientists left the bones in the approximately 1m-large rock for their research. With the help of photogrammetry, the researchers have been able to create a 3D model of the enclosed dinosaur.

The Dinosaur Park Muenchehagen will use the results to create more life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs to add to the 220 models currently on display along the park's woodland trail.

The highlight of any visit to Muenchehagen is the hall containing more than 250 fossilised dinosaur tracks left in the mud of a shallow tropical lagoon by various dinosaurs over 140 million years ago.

The assessment of all the fossils at the site in northern Germany is a lifetime's work and so far only 15 per cent have been examined.

The project is supported by the Volkswagen foundation and involves palaeontologists and taxidermists from Bonn University, the State Museum in Hanover, the Natural History Museum of Brunswick and the open-air museum at the Dinosaur Park Muenchehagen.
Read more on:    palaeontology

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