London, Dec 17 (IANS) Analysing a partial skeleton specimen, scientists have discovered a new ‘sail-backed’ dinosaur species which inhabited the Iberian land mass 125 million years ago.
Named Morelladon beltrani, the new dinosaur species is a medium-sized styracosternan ornithopod around six metres long and 2.5 metres high.
The discovery of Morelladon beltrani in the same area and time period with its relatives Iguanodon bernissartensis and Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis may indicate a particularly diverse medium-large bodied styracosternan assemblage in the eastern Iberian land mass during the late Barremian period.
“This discovery shows an interesting rise of the iguanodontoid diversity in southern Europe almost 125 million years ago,” said study co-author Fernando Escaso from the National University of Distance Education (UNED) in Madrid, Spain.
The most conspicuous feature of this new, relatively gracile ornithopod is the presence of tall neural spines on dorsal vertebrae, which the authors suggested was possibly a ‘sail’ used for thermoregulation, or as a storage place for fat to be used during periods of low food supply.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.