for National Geographic News
A massive Jurassic-age dinosaur—the largest ever discovered in Europe—has been unearthed by Spanish fossil hunters.
Paleontologists from the Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis in Teruel uncovered parts of the giant creature's legs, skull, spine, and ribs in Riodeva in northern Spain (map of Spain).
The new species, Turiasaurus riodevensis, measured up to 120 feet (37 meters) in length and weighed as much as 48 tons—equivalent to the weight of seven adult male elephants—the researchers say.
The 150-million-year-old dinosaur is thought to represent a new type of sauropod, the group of long-necked plant-eaters with huge tails that were the largest animals ever to have walked Earth.
Other well-known sauropods include Apatosaurus (once called Brontosaurus), Brachiosaurus, and Diplodocus.
The team's findings, reported tomorrow in the journal Science, suggest Turiasaurus was comparable in size to fossil species from North and South America, where the world's largest known dinosaurs lived. (Related: "Giant Dinosaur Discovered in Argentina" [July 28, 2006].)
"The humerus—the long bone in the foreleg that runs from the shoulder to the elbow—was as large as an adult [human]," said Brooks Hanson, Science's deputy editor for physical sciences.
The study team says the 5.9-foot (1.8-meter) humerus almost measures up to that of Argentinosaurus, an estimated 100-ton, 125-foot-long (38-meter-long) sauropod from Argentina that is generally considered the planet's biggest dinosaur.
"Argentinosaurus has bigger vertebrae than Turiasaurus, but the limb bones are only slightly bigger than Turiasaurus," said lead researcher Rafael Royo-Torres.
Turiasaurus indeed claims the title of dinosaur heavyweight champion of Europe, concedes paleobiologist David Martill from the University of Portsmouth, England.
He was one of the team that identified Europe's former biggest dinosaur in 2004 from a vertebra more than a meter (3.3 feet) long found on the Isle of Wight in southern England (United Kingdom map).
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