A small seaside town in Italy bears riches in terms of dinosaur history, with experts reassessing previous findings of what was once believed to be a ‘dwarf dinosaur’.
A recent discovery has revealed a treasure trove of well-preserved dinosaurs, eleven of them, near Trieste, at Villaggio del Pescatore, at a former limestone quarry. The northeastern part of Italy, where the remains were found, is now home to the “biggest and most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the country.”
“Italy is not known for dinosaurs and, although we had a few lucky strikes in the past, now we have a whole herd at one dinosaur site,” says Federico Fanti, a professor at the University of Bologna and leader of a research team whose findings have been published in the Scientific Reports journal.
This biggest and most complete dinosaur is called Tethyshadros insularis that lived 80 million years ago and could reach up to five metres in length.
Gizmodo says hadrosaurs, of which Tethyshadros insularis were a part of, were herbivores and are “colloquially known as the duck-billed dinosaurs.” This is not the first time that dinosaurs were found at Villaggio del Pescatore – that also happened back in the 1980s – but because the location is a difficult one to work with, requiring heavy machinery to remove the fossils and then acid baths to dissolve the rock from the bones, progress has been slow.
According to the Guardian, “Villaggio del Pescatore first became known for dinosaurs in 1996 after the discovery of a dinosaur skeleton that palaeontologists named Antonio and initially believed was a ‘dwarf species’.” Scientists now believe that was not the case, and that Antonio was merely a young dinosaur rather than a dwarf species. They also named the largest dinosaur of the batch Bruno.
“Bruno is the biggest and oldest of the group, and the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Italy,” says Fanti. “We knew there were dinosaurs at the site after the discovery of Antonio, but up until now nobody actually checked to see how many. What we have now are multiple bones belonging to the same herd.”
“There is still an additional skeleton waiting in the site to be dug up, Zdravko, which may be potentially even bigger than Antonio and looks sub-complete,” lead author Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, a paleontologist at the University of Vigo in Spain, tells Gizmodo in an email. “We also have many other animals preserved in the site, from pterosaurs, to crustaceans, to crocodiles, to fish and plants, so we hope some kind of different dinosaur, maybe a complete theropod, could be soon revealed from the site.”
“This is super cool as we can figure out the kind of environment the dinosaurs lived and died in,” Fanti tells the Guardian. “During that period, the area was very close to the shoreline in a tropical, warm and humid environment capable of feeding herds of dinosaurs.”
Villaggio del Pescatore is a protected area which experts hope eventually to open to the public. Some of the fossils found so far are on display at the Museo di Storia Naturale Trieste.