Sauropods, often informally referred to as long-necked dinosaurs, were the largest creatures to have ever existed on Earth. These gigantic quadrupeds could reach heights of a five-storey building, were as long as two buses lined up in a row and weighed as much as twelve adult African bull elephants. At one time, these iconic dinosaurs were common all over the world, and Germany also had its own sauropod, the Europasaurus, about 154 million years ago.
Dinosaurs over ten metres long
In eastern Spain, a brand new long-necked dinosaur was recently discovered by palaeontologists in the province of Castellón in eastern Spain. Near the town of Morella, Pedro Mocho from the University of Lisbon and his research colleagues came across an accumulation of 122 million-year-old giant bones that they were able to assign to four individual sauropods. The Garumbatitan morellensis reached a stately length of over ten metres during its lifetime and existed about 122 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous. Researchers have preserved impressive fossils of this sauropod, including vertebrae more than a metre wide and a femur an impressive two metres long.
It is believed that this dinosaur was probably at the root of one of the most important sauropod lineages from the Cretaceous period, according to palaeontologists. “One particularly remarkable specimen stands out for its imposing size, with vertebrae more than a metre wide and a femur that may have reached up to two metres in length,” Mocho reports. It is believed that the total size of this animal could have been more than ten metres. In addition, the team discovered two exceptionally well-preserved feet of the dinosaur that were complete and still in their original composition.
The “Giant of Garumba”
Due to the striking differences in the appearance of both the femur and the feet compared to other known sauropod species, Pedro Mocho and his research team have assigned the find to a new species and genus: Garumbatitan morellensis. They estimate that three of the four identified sauropods can be classified as “giants of Garumba” – a literal translation of the new name. “Garumba” refers to the site at the foot of the elevation of the same name, Mola de la Garumba. Garumbatitan shared its habitat in the Early Cretaceous with various other dinosaurs whose fossils were also discovered in Morella, as reported by palaeontologists.
These include the duck-billed dinosaur Morelladon beltrani and the predatory spinosaur Protathlitis cinctorrensis. It is assumed that all these animals lived in a wide valley with an estuary, which was surrounded by mountains and partly densely forested. These forests could have provided sufficient food for large herbivores like Garumbatitan. Mocho and his team also classify Garumbatitan as one of the most primitive members of the Somphospondyli, one of the most common and diverse Cretaceous sauropod groups. This suggests that it could be a possible ancestor of later sauropod lineages in North America, Asia and Africa, the researchers report.