Trove of Pristine Dinosaur Fossils Unearthed in Italy

Although Italy is famous the world over for many reasons—including its extraordinary statuary—having dig sites relevant to paleontology generally isn’t one of them. There is a site in northern Italy, however, that’s been churning out dinosaur discoveries since 1996. In the latest haul, a team of Italian paleontologists has discovered multiple, exceptionally complete, dinosaur fossils.  As well as a collection of fossils from prehistoric fish, flying reptiles, and even crocodiles.

Gizmodo picked up on the discovery, which the team of paleontologists outlined in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. The team notes that it was reevaluating a site at Villaggio del Pescatore; a former limestone quarry near the north-eastern port city of Trieste, when it discovered the trove of dinosaur fossils.

An illustration of the kinds of Tethyshadros insularis dinosaurs paleontologists recently discovered in northern Italy.
Davide Bonadonna

Chief amongst the discoveries at the site was a pristine, intact fossil from an adult Tethyshadros insularis (below). Tethyshadros was a genus of dinosaur native to the region, with members reaching up to 16 feet in length. Like other members of its genus, T. insularis would’ve had a beak. As well as hands formed into fleshy pads and three-toed feet.

The paleontologists have named the dinosaur fossil “Bruno,” and say he may usher in a shift as to how experts think about the region’s geographical history. Paleontologists originally believed that “Antonio,” the first T. insularis fossil from the site, was a dwarf species; it was smaller than other members of the genus and paleontologists believed that was due to the “island rule” principle. That is, the rule of thumb that when an island segments a species from the mainland, larger species will shrink. And smaller species, conversely, will grow.

A fossil belonging to a dinosaur paleontologists have named Bruno, which they discovered in Italy as a part of a trove of findings.
P. Ferrieri (courtesy of Soprintendenza Archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio del Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

Bruno, however—who’s clearly an adult—shows that Antonio wasn’t a dwarf T. insularis. He was, rather, just a juvenile. This observation dovetails well with new geological evidence discovered at the site. Evidence that points to Villaggio del Pescatore’s dinosaurs existing 10 million years earlier than previously assumed; eighty million years ago when local Mediterranean islands would’ve been connected to western Europe and Asia.

“There is still an additional skeleton waiting in the site to be dug up, Zdravko, which may be potentially even bigger than Antonio and looks sub-complete,” Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, one of the paleontologists involved, said in a press release. “We also have many other animals preserved in the site, from pterosaurs, to crustaceans, to crocodiles, to fish and plants, so we hope some kind of different dinosaur, maybe a complete theropod, could be soon revealed from the site.”

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