Morelladon Beltrani is a newly unearthed dinosaur species that once roamed the territory of modern day Spain and Portugal. Its name even describes the fossil’s origin place: the town of Morella, located in modern day Spain.
Researchers with the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia and colleagues have described the newly unearthed dinosaur as bearing a highly distinctive sign. And large for that matter. The reconstruction on Morelladon Beltrani based on the fossil unearthed from the red clays of the upper Barremian Arcillas de Morella shows that the dinosaur had a large sail on its back. Long vertebrae pointing upwards would have sustained the large sail-like portion on the back of Morelladon Beltrani. As to the purpose of the large sail, opinions are split.
Some researchers suggest that the distinctive sign could have been a reservoir for the newly unearthed dinosaur. Much as the camel hump stores fat and water, the large sail on Morelladon Beltrani’s back could have fulfilled the same function. At times when nourishment would have been scarce, the large sail would provide the dinosaur the needed resources to survive.
Somewhat related to this theory, another one suggests that the large sail would have fulfilled a thermoregulatory function. During hot periods, the heat would have escaped the dinosaur’s body through a larger surface. Reversely, during cooler periods, it would have helped Morelladon Beltrani to keep warm.
Morellodon Beltrani is a newly unearthed dinosaur species which has been described in a paper featuring in the PLOS ONE journal. Dated to 125 million years ago, the fossil brings relevant new information to the diversity of the iguanodontoid group at the time, particularly in these areas.
As a plant-eating dinosaur, Morelladon Beltrani had 14 large teeth that helped it reap apart and chew fibery and woody plants of the Early Cretaceous. An impressive 20 feet long and above 8 feet in height, the dinosaur must have dominated the landscape. Nonetheless, with predators around, it would have also been an easy target. The large sail on its back could have also been used as a protective shield from the carnivorous predators of the Early Cretaceous.
Due to this distinctive sign, the researchers believe that Morelladon Beltrani could be related to Iguanodon. Another large plant-eating dinosaur with a wide tail and sharp spikes ending its thumbs, Iguanodon borrowed its name to a group of dinosaurs known as iguanodontoids.
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