First lambeosaurine dinosaurs in Europe found in Catalan Pyrenees

Group of hadrosaurids arrived from Asia some 275,000 years earlier than thought, say researchers

A paleontological site in the Catalan Pyrenees
A paleontological site in the Catalan Pyrenees / Estefania Escolà and Alan Ruiz Terol

ACN | Barcelona

November 26, 2019 08:46 PM

The first lambeosaurine dinosaurs in Europe lived in the Catalan Pyrenees. That is according to a new article published in the journal, 'Cretaceous Research', which explains that the oldest remains of the species were found in the Els Nerets dig in Tremp.

The study, which involved researchers from the Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology and the Conca Dellà Museum, reveals that this group of hadrosaurids arrived from Asia some 275,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The lambeosaurine were a group of hadrosaurid dinosaurs, also known as duck-billed dinosaurs, which had a prominent hollow crest on top of their heads that is believed to have had a communicative function by amplifying the sounds the animal made.

Some 69 million years ago (during the Maastrichtian age) what is now the Pyrenees, Iberia, and part of France made up a large island known as the Ibero-Armorican Island, which was part of the archipelago that during the Late Cretaceous period was where Europe is today. 

At the time the hadrosaurids arrived from Asia, the Ibero-Armorican Island was dominated by the presence of the long-necked herbivore dinosaurs known as titanosaurus. It was also a time when sea levels had dropped low enough to allow animals to cross onto the island.

Fragments found from three individuals

"Over a number of seasons in this exceptional dig, we excavated 29 fossil remains of the lambeosaurine hadrosaurs," says researcher Bernat Vila, who adds: "We found fragments of teeth, various vertebrae, pelvis remains and extremities from at least three individuals."

In a few million years, the hadrosaurs had expanded all over the Ibero-Armorican Island, and the researchers say "in the Pyrenees, we've found dozens of sites with their fossil remains, and a large number of footprints and traces showing they occupied different environments."

Yet, the Catalan Pyrenees have also turned out to be one of the best places to discover the remains of the last dinosaurs to ever live on the continent, just a few thousand years before their extinction from the entire planet.