The skin impressions belong to Late Cretaceous Period and can help understand how and why dinosaurs became extinct
Fossils usually consist of bones or hard parts of a creature’s body as delicate or soft tissues are more prone to decay and could not survive over geological time scales. But if these delicate things remain preserved and tracked, they can provide great amount of knowledge about an organism’s evolution.
Recently, paleontologists working on a site near Barcelona have unearthed a unique fossil that is bearing the skin impression of a dinosaur. By assessing the age of fossil, researchers suggests that it belongs to Late Cretaceous – a period followed by a mass extinction event in which all non-avian dinosaurs died out. The impressions likely represents one of last dinosaurs walked on the European soil.
“This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event, in all of the world,” said lead author Victor Fondevilla from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
“There are very few samples of fossilized skin registered, and the only sites with similar characteristics can be found in United States and Asia. Other dinosaur skin fossils have been found in the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal and Asturias, but they correspond to other more distant periods.”
Researchers beleive that the fossil belongs to a large plant-eating titanosauras which possibly left its skin impression as it laid down on the mud. Over the years, the mud turned solid alongside the skin imprint.
“The fossil probably belongs to a large herbivore sauropod, maybe a titanosaurus, since we discovered footprints from the same species very close to the rock with the skin fossil.” Fondevilla said.
This newly discovered 20-centimeter wide skin impression could help reconstruct the environmental conditions of Late Cretaceous period and can also provide more insight into the extinction of dinosaurs.
“The sites in Berguedà, Pallars Jussà, Alt Urgell and La Noguera, in Catalonia, have provided proof of five different groups of dinosaurs: titanosaurs, ankylosaurids, theropods, hadrosaurs and rhabdodontids," said co-author Àngel Galobart from the Museum of Conca Dellà in Isona. “The sites in the Pyrenees are very relevant from a scientific point of view, since they allow us to study the cause of their extinction in a geographic point far away from the impact of the meteorite."