Paleontologists have recently recovered a newly identified dinosaur in the Italian Alps that would have roamed the Earth around 200 million years ago, and this marks the very first time that a dinosaur which dates back to the Jurassic Period has ever been discovered in Italy.
As Live Science reports, the new four-fingered dinosaur has been called Saltriovenator zanellai and this creature is the most ancient type of ceratosaurian that paleontologists have ever found. It is also the most mighty after it was found to weigh a whopping one ton.
The journey which took the S. zanellai dinosaur to its final resting place in the Italian Alps is fascinating itself and involved the dead dinosaur trapped within the sea, being gobbled up slowly by the many marine creatures that lived there. As time passed, around 30 million years ago, the dinosaur’s bones would have risen up along with the creation of the Italian Alps, where they have remained until this day.
Lead researcher Cristiano Dal Sasso, who is a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Milan Natural History Museum, explained that it is nothing short of a miracle that this ancient dinosaur was ever recovered at all after its arduous journey from the sea to the Italian Alps.
“It is a miracle that it survived such a long chain of events: drifting away to the sea, then floating, sinking, being scavenged by marine animals, reworked by sea bottom currents, buried, uplifted within a mountain chain, and eventually blown up by human explosives.”
The remains of the S. zanellai dinosaur were first unearthed in 1996 within a marble quarry in the Italian Alps, and paleontologists were shocked that any bones had survived at all as large amounts of dynamite had been used in the past by workers to demolish the quarry at the end, which also blew up the fossilized dinosaur bones, too, unfortunately.
Despite the fact that this newly discovered dinosaur’s bones were broken into 132 pieces, paleontologists were still able to ascertain that the S. zanellai would have once had four fingers, which would have been normal among ceratosaurs, who all had four fingers also.
Matthew Lamanna, an assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, has noted that as dinosaurs evolved, they eventually lost their pinky finger.
“Somewhere on the evolutionary line to ceratosaurs, the fifth (outermost) digit (the ‘pinky’) was lost, resulting in the four-fingered hand of ceratosaurs.”
Out of its four fingers, three of these would have had claws that have jokingly been referred to as “weapons of war,” which would have helped it to demolish its prey fairly quickly. In terms of size, this dinosaur would have also been very large, standing at 26 feet long.
The new study on the discovery of the S. zanellai dinosaur that was found in the Italian Alps has been published in PeerJ.