Morella, Spain – Researchers in Spain found a new species of ornithopod dinosaur that inhabited the Iberian Peninsula more than 125 million years ago, which have a massive “sail-like” structure on its back.

The new study was published in PLOS ONE Journal, and states that the new dinosaur, named Morelladon beltrani, is a member of the Iguanodon bernissartensis group, and lived about 125 million years ago. It is an average size dinosaur with a length of 6 meters and a height of about 2.5 meters, very similar in size and shape proportions European Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis.

Picture of what a Morelladon beltrani would have looked like. Credit: Carlos de Miguel Chaves

The ornithopods are herbivores with an uneven morphological diversity, since some walked on two legs and others in four – like the one found in Spain – explains Fernando Escaso, one of the authors of the paper. Specifically, the dinosaur found in the town of Morella – south of Spain – although it could have spent most of its time walking on its four legs, it also had the ability to do short trips only with the hind limbs.

The most remarkable characteristic of this ornithopod is the presence of very high neural spines in the dorsal region, which scientists stated it could be related to body temperature control processes or as a storage place for fat to withstand periods of food scarcity, just as modern elephants do, in which they use their large ears to release excess body heat, researchers say.

Escaso also noted that this structure could have played an important role in the communication between the members of the same species, as recognition and sexual selection.

The remains, which have served to determine that it is a new species, were found in 2013, with the fossil remains of the pelvic girdle, the sacrum, the dorsal region of the animal’s tibia and a tooth.

Source: Cadena Agramonte