Fossil remains of herd of 11 dinosaurs discovered in Italy

·2 min read

A treasure trove of fossils of a herd of 11 dinosaurs has been identified for the first time in Italy, including the biggest and most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the country.

Although isolated dinosaur remains have been discovered in Italy since the 1990s, palaeontologists have now identified an entire group at Villaggio del Pescatore, a former limestone quarry close to the north-eastern port city of Trieste.

Related: Footprints of crocodile-like prehistoric reptile found in Italian Alps

The fossilised remains belong to the species Tethyshadros insularis, which lived 80 million years ago and reached up to five metres in length.

“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,” said 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.

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”. But the latest discoveries dispute this, with Antonio now believed to have been a young dinosaur who was part of the same herd that died together. The largest of the fossilised remains among the group has been named Bruno.

“Bruno is the biggest and oldest of the group, and the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Italy,” said 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.”

Fossilised remains of fish, crocodiles, flying reptiles and even small shrimp have also been found at the site, which 80 million years ago formed part of the ancient Mediterranean area.

“This is super cool as we can figure out the kind of environment the dinosaurs lived and died in,” added Fanti. “During that period, the area was very close to the shoreline in a tropical, warm and humid environment capable of feeding herds of dinosaurs.”

Some of the fossils so far found at Villaggio del Pescatore, a protected area, are on display at the civic museum of natural history in Trieste, and experts hope eventually to open part of the site to the public.

In January, footprints believed to have belonged to a crocodile-like prehistoric reptile were found in the Italian Alps.

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