Dinosaur fossils turn up in surprising places. A cow farm in England yielded perfectly preserved fossilized fish. The rocky beaches of the Isle of Skye revealed a new winged reptile species. A Welsh 4-year-old stumbled on footprints frozen in beach sand. For one Portuguese man, the paleontological surprise was in his back garden. Discovered in 2017, the accidentally unearthed fossil of a sauropod dinosaur may be the largest ever found in Europe.
The man was beginning construction in his yard in Pombal, Portugal, when he noticed fossilized bone fragments. Researchers were summoned to examine the scene. Over the past several years, excavations have exposed a remarkable sight. As of August 2022, the creature's vertebrae and 10-foot-long ribs are exposed. This massive chest cavity once belonged to a sauropod—dinosaurs which feasted upon plants and had long, swinging necks and tails.
Possibly of the Brachiosauridae family, the dino stretched about 39 feet tall and 82 feet long. It roamed sometime between 160 to 100 million years ago (the Upper Jurassic to the Lower Cretaceous period). The skeleton appears unusually complete and in situ. “This kind of preservation is relatively rare for large-sized dinosaurs from the Portuguese fossil record and indicates particular and unusual environmental and taphonomic features,” Elisabete Malafaia, a paleontologist from the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Lisbon told CBS. Its vast size indicate it is likely the largest dinosaur fossil discovered in Europe.
The researchers expect to find more of the skeleton as excavations continue. The already-unearthed bones will be cleaned of sediment, further researched, and displayed in a museum. The Pombal area is known for its fossil beds, but this find takes the scientific cake. As excavations continue, researchers can only be thankful that the homeowner decided to renovate and discovered this exceptional sauropod.
A man in Portugal discovered an enormous sauropod dinosaur fossil in his backyard.
The fossil stretches 82 feet long, possibly the largest ever discovered in Europe.
h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]