Researchers from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) have taken part in the annual meeting of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists (EAVP), the most important vertebrate paleontology meeting in Europe, held in Munich from 1st to 3rd August. ICP personnel or collaborators presented up to 30 works among talks and posters.
An international team of paleontologists led by Novella Razzolini, researcher at the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), describes the new 150-million-years-old type of carnivorous dinosaur footprint Megalosauripus transjuranicus. Scientists studied more than 300 tridactyl trackways in Switzerland before the site was partially destroyed by the construction of a highway. The research has been published in PLOS ONE. In another recent article, the same team of researchers describes one of the world's largest carnivorous dinosaur footprints that belonged to an animal of a similar size of Tyrannosaurus rex.
This is just a small sample of the paleontological richness of Catalonia. The pieces exhibited in this showcase are replicas of fossils excavated in different sites of the country.
1. Pliobates cataloniae, "Laia"
A team of researchers from the ‘Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont’ described in the Science magazine in late 2015 the new genus and species Pliobates cataloniae based on a skeleton recovered from the landfill of Can Mata (els Hostalets de Pierola, Catalonia, Spain). The fossil remains belong to an adult female individual named “Laia” by her discoverers. “Laia” weighed 4-5 kg, consumed soft fruit items and moved through the forest canopy by climbing and suspending below branches. Pliobates lived 11.6 million years ago and precedes the divergence between hominids (great apes and humans) and hylobatids (gibbons), which has important implications for reconstructing the last common ancestor of both groups.
The cranial remains were so fragmentary that researchers relied on a virtual reconstruction based on high-resolution computed-tomography imagery to study them. The 3D model could therefore be printed as you can observe.
2. Isochirotherium, archosaur fossil footprint
This fossil footprint (ichnite in paleontology) was fortuitously found in May 2016 by members of the ‘Centre Muntanyenc i de Recerca’ from Olesa. It’s a 16x10 cm piece that holds a footprint of the ichnogenus Isochirotherium made by an archosaur, a group of reptiles that preceded dinosaurs and crocodiles. Archosaurs resembled extant crocodiles, walking on all fours though their legs were longer and moved in a more vertical position than that of crocodiles.
The appearance of these reptiles, known as archosaurs, was similar to that of today's crocodiles, they walked on all fours, but these were relatively longer and were arranged in a more vertical position than those of crocodiles. Archosaurs dominated the terrestrial ecosystems after the extinction of the Late Permian (the largest in Earth's history) just before the appearance of the dinosaurs.
The Puigventós ichnite, found near Olesa de Montserrat, is from the Middle Triassic and is the best preserved of all the fossilized tracks in the Iberian Peninsula, since it even preserves detailed impressions of the claws and the skin.Més informació sobre Iscohirotherium
3. Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, "Pau"
A skull and other associated remains of an hominoid were discovered in 2002. A total of 82 elements of a partial adult male skeleton were retrieved, which enabled scientists to describe, in 2004, the new genus and species Pierolapithecus catalaunicus.
Pau weighed around 35 kg, ate fruit and, besides moving quadrupedally, he used to climb trees vertically. He is the oldest evidence of an orthograde body plan from the entire fossil record, but unlike living apes he lacks any adaptations to hang below branches. This indicates that orthogrady originally evolved for vertical climbing instead of suspension, contrary to what many researchers thought based on the study of living forms.
Studies of the relationships of the genus Pierolapithecus indicate that it precedes the split between the orangutan lineage and that of African apes and humans around 14 million years ago, meaning that he is a good model of the last common ancestor of the group.More information on Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
4. Albanosmilus jourdani, false sabertooth
Barbourofelids are extinct carnivores also known as "false sabertooth" related to extant felids. Several fossil remains have been recovered from Africa, Eurasia and North America. In the Valles-Penedes basin (in Catalonia) the oldest remains of Albanosmilus are about 12 million years old and were found in the landfill of Can Mata (Hostalets de Pierola, Anoia). The most recent remains, however, have been found in Can Llobateres (Sabadell, Vallès Occidental) and are dated around 9.5 million years ago.
In 2013, researchers at the ‘Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont’ published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology new fossil remains of the barbourofelid Albanosmilus jourdani, including the skull included in the showcase. The full skull and some mandible remains were recovered from different sites from Hostalets de Pierola and Terrassa. These fossils helped to confirm that this species should be included in the genus Albanosmilus, not Sansanosmilus as it was thought until then. The study also proved that the genus Barbourofelis was originated in North America during the middle Miocene, after the dispersion of Albanosmilus from Eurasia through the continent.
5. Titanosaur egg
This egg was laid by a titanosaur, a group of quadruped herbivorous dinosaurs that could reach gigantic dimensions. Titanosaurs were included in the sauropods, a group that includes the largest animals that have ever walked on the Earth. In the Pyrenees several remains have been found, including eggs, footprints and bones. Scientific studies have identified at least 8 different forms of sauropod dinosaurs from 72 to 66 million years ago. Remains belong to very large species (about 15 meters in length) and to smaller ones, with adults that would hardly reach 6 or 7 meters of total length.
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A team of researchers from the Department of Geology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) recently published in PLOS ONE the description of a large set of tracks made by archosauromorphs, reptiles which later evolved into crocodiles and dinosaurs. Among the tracks, there is evidence of a new species, the Prorotodactylus mesaxonichnus, which corresponds to a reptile which lived in the Pyrenees some 247 to 248 million years ago, but which was not related to any dinosaur.
The researchers Kelsey Pugh (City University of New York) and Miyuki Kagaya (Hiroshima University) are visiting the ICP this week to study several fossils from the Institute's collection. Pugh works on the systematics of the Miocene hominoids while Kagaya studies the functional morphology of the upper limbs of apes. Some of the specimens that have planned to study are the post-cranial remains of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus (named “Pau”) and Hispanopithecus laietanus (“Jordi”).
The scientific journal on paleontology Comptes Rendus Palevol has published a thematic issue that includes several articles on Oligocene and Miocene faunas from different regions of Eurasia. Isaac Casanovas, researcher at the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), is one of the guest editors of this special volume that contains up-to-date information on relevant localities such as the Vallès and Penedès (Catalonia, Spain), Siwaliks (in Pakistan) or the Vienna Basin (Austria), which are very interesting from the scientific point of view to study small-scale evolution.
The head of the research group on Neogene and Quaternary faunas at the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), David M. Alba, is, since early this year, the new co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Evolution (JHE), the most prestigious scientific journal in the field of human evolution and paleoprimatology. The editors-in-chief bear the greatest responsibility on the contents published in the magazine. Since 2013 Alba has been an associate editor.
A fortuitous finding provides first evidence for the presence of a Permian captorhinid reptile in Southern Europe. Belongs to a group of early reptiles which is characterized by the possession of several distinctive tooth rows. Catalan and German researchers collaborated in the study of the fossil, which will be housed at the Museu Balear de Ciències Naturals, at Sóller (Mallorca).