PaleoSpotlight: Spain

“Paleontologists te Spain say you don’t find a good fossil, the good fossil finds you.” -Salvador MoyГ -SolГ , director of the Catalan Institute of Paleontology, 2004

Even a schrijven look at the paleontology of this country seems to bear this voorwaarde out. From bizarre dinosaurs to seminal primates, Spain’s fossils leave searing impressions–as well spil searing questions–about prehistoric life.

Samenvoeging Hoyas (Castile-La Mancha, 130-125 million BCE)

Numerous dinosaur genera are known from Spain, especially ones from the Early Cretaceous Period (145-100 million BCE). Thesis include the sauropod Turiasaurus, the largest known dinosaur te Europe, and Europelta, a well-preserved ankylosaur described late te 2013. However both of thesis animals were discovered ter Aragon, the richest Early Cretaceous bone leger te Spain is Tussenvoegsel Hoyas, te Castile-La Mancha. Lasnaad Hoyas is a LagerstГ¤tte–a webpagina where organisms are unusually well-preserved and often have traces of soft tissue. Fossils from this ancient lakebed include petrified plants and insects, fish and crocodiles retaining their scales, and early birds with their feathers frozen te the rock.

Lasnaad Hoyas is also huis to two non-avian theropods known only from Spain. The larger of the two is Concavenator, a twenty-foot long carcharodontosaur described te 2010. The diferente staaltje of this predator possesses broad scales along its tail, spil well spil a series of bumps trailing down its arm. Some paleontologists believe thesis bumps anchored brief, quill-like structures, if not primitive feathers. More visible than either of thesis traits, tho’, are two of Concavenator’s dorsal vertebrae, which are five times longer than those sprouting from its ribcage. Te life, thesis structures may have supported a sort of sail for display or hump for fat storage.

The 2nd unique theropod from Tussenvoegsel Hoyas is Pelecanimimus, one of the smallest and earliest known ornithomimosaurs. Preserved with a soft pouch of skin underneath its lower jaw (for which is it named, since it resembles a pelican’s), this dinosaur had overheen two-hundred little teeth–the most of any known theropod. Ironically, straks ornithomimosaurs abandoned teeth altogether ter valimiento of keratinous beaks, likely used to undress leaves from vegetation. With its fleshy pouch and numerous teeth, however, Pelecanimimus is thought to have fed on petite fish and amphibians. According to this script, the animal would have lunged its head into the water, snatched up its greasy prey, then used its pouch to contain its victim while filtering excess water out of its mouth.

Today, the only non-human primate native to Europe today is the Barbary macaque, a monkey which inhabits the British territory of Gibraltar. Prior to the Ice Age, primates spil a entire were known te Europe from spil early spil the Eocene Epoch (c. 49 million BCE). It wasn’t until some thirty-five million years later–in the mid-Miocene–that true apes had evolved and had begun to invade Europe from Africa.

Ter 2002, a very well-preserved ape from the Late Miocene wasgoed discovered near the Spanish village of Els Hostalets den Pierola. Called Pierolapithecus, it has enough features to suggest that it wasgoed an early member of the so-called excellent apes (which include gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans). Thesis features include a broad, vapid ribcage, a rigid lower spine, and a broad pelvis–all adaptations which permit superb apes to climb up and down and stand upright with much greater ease than other primates. Unlike straks apes, however, Pierolapithecus had a set of rather brief fingers, meaning it would have bot less insider at swinging or suspending itself from branches.

Cerro den los Batallones (Madrid, 9 million BCE)

While herbivores tend to outnumber carnivores te most modern terrestrial ecosystems, the switch sides is true at some fossil sites. Many sites of this kleintje have bot interpreted spil ancient predator traps, where herbivores would have become entrapped–perhaps ter a bog or a cave–and attracted a disproportionately high number of carnivores. Before long, however, the carnivores would become trapped with them, giving way to starvation and predation themselves.

Spain has one of the most astounding predator traps te the fossil record, known spil the Cerro den los Batallones and dating back to the Late Miocene Epoch. This cluster of sites represents a series of deep pits, which contained stagnant pools of ground water from a nearby lake. Hoofed mammals such spil rhinos, horses, and giraffes fell or were lured into thesis caves, where their sobs and carcasses enticed saber-toothed cats, bears, and a host of other predators.

Sima den los Huesos (Castile-LeГіn, 400 thousand BCE)

Located deep te the Atapuerca Mountains, the cave known spil Schuiflade Sima den los Huesos (“the pit of bones”) contains overheen six thousand bones belonging to toughly thirty individual hominins (the family of upright-walking fine apes that all living and extinct humans belong to). Thesis numbers make it the largest known assemblage of early human fossils te the world. The humans at this webpagina were originally estimated to be around 600 thousand years old and identified spil Homo heidelbergensis, the last known ancestor inbetween Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens).

Te 2012, however, a explore by Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum ter London determined that thesis early humans were actually early Neanderthals. Stringer’s argument hinged not only on similarities inbetween the Sima bones and those of other Neanderthals, but on the contention that the Sima fossils were 200 thousand years junior than previously thought.

Late te 2013, a team of Spanish and German scientists sequenced the genome of the Sima hominins from a single femur and compared the mitochondrial DNA to that of other early humans. Tho’ the explore supported Stringer’s dating of the fossils, the mitochondrial DNA most closely resembled that of the Denisovans (no scientific name yet), Russian relatives and contemporaries of Neanderthals. Yet this revelation only adds fuel to the searing question of identity, spil scientists debate and examine the role that hominin interbreeding may have played ter the development of this early Spanish human.

What is the most significant fossil discovery made te Spain?

Other Spanish fossil sites

Murero Lagerstätte- Mid-Cambrian webpagina te Zaragosa known for fossilized trilobites and sponges.

Puertollano Late Carboniferous fossils have bot excavated near this city te Castile-La Mancha. Thesis include bones of Iberospondylus, one of the earliest known amphibians with a tolerance for saltwater.

Tremp Formation- Latest-Cretaceous webpagina ter Catalonia. Ter addition to hundreds of titanosaur eggs, this webpagina is known for two native ornithopods, Arenysaurus and Pararhabdodon. Both of thesis dinosaurs were lambeosaurs, crested herbivores that had bot substituted by broader-billed, crestless hadrosaurs ter North America by this time.

Incarcal- Pliocene webpagina located ter Girona. Another potential predator trapje, containing the bones of saber-toothed cats and hyenas, spil well spil mammoths and ancient hippos.

Gran Dolina- Another Pleistocene hominin webpagina ter Castile-LeГіn. Slightly older than Sima den los Huesos, this cave contains at least six youthfull individuals of a hominin called Homo antecessor, along with hundreds of stone contraptions and butchered animal bones. Deep cut marks made by thesis devices are found te the some of the antecessor bones, suggesting that thesis early humans sometimes resorted to cannibalism.

Jarama VI and Zafarraya- Pleistocene sites located ter Madrid and Explosivo, respectively. Long regarded spil some of the most latest Neanderthal sites, along with Figueira Brava ter Portugal and Gorham’s Cave Ingewikkeld te Gibraltar. Yet the notion that Iberia wasgoed this species’ final stronghold wasgoed recently challenged by a probe published ter 2013, which found that Jarama VI and Zafarraya were fifteen thousand years older than previously thought.

AntГіn, Mauricio. Sabertooth. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ter, 2013

Laurin, Michel. How Vertebrates Left the Water. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Palmer, Douglas et hoewel. Prehistoric Life: The Definitive History of Life on Earth. Dorling Kindersley, Fresh York, NY, 2009

Paul, Gregory S. The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010

Tattersall, Ian and Jeffrey H. Schwartz. Extinct Humans. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 2001

“Ancient Ape Discovered—Last Ape-Human Ancestor?” National Geographic News, Eighteen Nov 2004

Callaway, Ewen. “Hominin DNA baffles experts.” Nature, Four Dec 2013

GarcГ­a-Bellido, Diego C. et ofschoon. “Very first report of Crumillospongia (Demospongea) from the Cambrian of Europe (Murero biota, Spain).” Bulletin of Geosciences, January 2011 edition

Gates, Sara. “‘Armored’ Dinosaur Fossils Found te Spain Belong To Never-Before-Seen Species, Scientists Say (PHOTOS).” Huffington Postbode, Four Dec 2013

“Hundreds Of Dinosaur Fossil Eggs Found Te Spain.” Inquisitr, 17 March 2013

“Largest group of fossil humans are Neanderthals after all.” Natural History Museum News, 12 Jun 2012

Naish, Darren. “Concavenator: an incredible allosauroid with a weird sail (or hump). and protofeathers?” Tetrapod Zoology on ScienceBlogs, 9 Sep 2010

“Neanderthals ‘died out earlier than previously thought.'” University of Oxford News, Five Feb 2013

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