for National Geographic News
A spectacular dinosaur "graveyard" containing thousands of fossils has been discovered in eastern Spain, scientists say.
Eight different dinosaur species, including several kinds of armor-clad plant-eaters that were among the world's largest types of dino, have been identified among the 8,000 fossils found to date, according to experts excavating the site.
Uncovered last June during the construction of a high-speed rail link near the city of Cuenca (see map), the fossil boneyard may represent the largest and most diverse dinosaur site known in Europe, scientists say.
The 70-million-year-old fossils show a stunning array of dinosaur diversity for a period that is very poorly known in Western Europe, said paleontologist José Luis Sanz of Autonomous University in Madrid.
"We are sure that in future, [once we have] studied the huge amount of fossil material recovered from the site, the diversity will increase," Sanz, who is in charge of the dig, said in an email.
The fossils date to some four million years before the dinosaurs went extinct, shedding new light "on these last European dinosaur ecosystems," Sanz said.
Excavations done at the site, called Lo Hueco, suggest the dominant plant-eaters of the period were massive, long-necked sauropods called titanosaurs, a group generally thought to include the largest animals ever to have walked the Earth.
"Titanosaurs are by far the most abundant dinosaur remains at Lo Hueco," Sanz said.
At least three types of titanosaur have been identified so far, including previously unknown forms, the paleontologist added.
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Limb bones, rare skull remains, and partially intact skeletons including delicate ribs were among the well-preserved fossils found.
Large numbers of bony plates known as osteoderms were also recovered. These acted as body protection and confirm that some titanosaurs were strongly armored, Sanz said.
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