An unassuming backyard in central Portugal has turned into an excavation site for the remains of what could be a record-setting dinosaur.
The excitement started in 2017, when a man in the city of Pombal spotted fragments of fossilized bones while digging up his garden to build an extension. He contacted researchers with the stunning find, and since then, paleontologists have been busy at the site unearthing fossilized fragments of what they believe could be the largest sauropod found in Europe yet.
Sauropods, which count among the biggest animals to have lived on land, had small heads atop long necks, long tails and four thick legs. They roved Earth 150 million years ago, reaching staggering heights of 39 feet (12 meters) and lengths of 82 feet (25 meters).
Earlier this month, the research team from Portugal and Spain collected vertebrae of the possible brachiosaurid sauropod from the garden, as well as ribs that include a whopper around 10 feet (3 meters) long. The way the fragments are situated leaves the researchers hopeful more reptilian treasures await at the Pombal site.
“It is not usual to find all the ribs of an animal like this, let alone in this position, maintaining their original anatomical position,” Elisabete Malafaia, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, said in a statement. “This mode of preservation is relatively uncommon in the fossil record of dinosaurs, in particular sauropods, from the Portuguese Upper Jurassic.”
The researchers will continue to excavate in the Pombal garden, and possibly beyond, to better understand the region’s fossil record of Late Jurassic vertebrates. And the owner of the house will no doubt be on high alert next time he goes outside to plant a few perennials.