Italians Find Evidence of Largest, Oldest Meat-Eating Dinosaur
Italian paleontologists say the largest and oldest meat-eating dinosaur ever to have been found was from what is now the northern area of Lombardy.
In the scientific journal PerrJ, the Italians recently published their study on the fossils discovered years ago in a large marble quarry in the Italian Alps.
The scientists said the dinosaur lived 200 years ago, and its skeleton was the first known to have been found in Italy from the Jurassic age.
They named the creature Saltriovenator zanellai, which means Zanella’s Saltrio hunter, in honor of Angelo Zanella, the amateur hunter who accidentally unearthed the bones, and for the area where the bones were found.
Zanella has said he will never forget that day. The bones appeared in large blocks of rock in a marble quarry near Saltrio in the summer of 1996. He reported his find to the Natural History Museum in Milan, which further scouted the area and found more fossils. Many of the bones bore the feeding marks of ancient marine invertebrates.
Cristiano dal Sasso of the Natural History Museum led the research. He said this dinosaur fossil was the first to be found in Lombardy and the oldest and largest dinosaur of the lower Jurassic in the world.
Dal Sasso said 132 bone pieces were recovered and that it was not easy to extract the bones from the hard rock. The team worked systematically, fragment by fragment, to recompose and position the bones. He said the discoveries were very exciting.
In their study, the paleontologists outlined the characteristics of the dinosaur. They said the carnivore had estimated body length of 7.5 meters (24.6 feet), an 80-centimeter (31.4-inch) skull and weighed at least a ton. It had very sharp teeth, and its lower limbs had four fingers, three of which had powerful claws.
Dal Sasso and his team said this dinosaur was a real war machine. He said it was one of the predators at the top of the food chain and therefore must have preyed on large herbivore dinosaurs.
The remains of Saltriovenator zanellai were the second set to have been found in Italy. The first were fossils of the tiny dinosaur Scipionyx, which were unearthed in southern Italy in 1980.