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Rauhut, Oliver W. M.; Pinuela, Laura; Castanera, Diego; Garcia-Ramos, Jose-Carlos and Sanchez Cela, Irene (2018): The largest European theropod dinosaurs: remains of a gigantic megalosaurid and giant theropod tracks from the Kimmeridgian of Asturias, Spain. In: Peerj, Vol. 6, e4963 [PDF, 38MB]


The Kimmeridgian Vega, Terenes and Lastres formations of Asturias have yielded a rich vertebrate fauna, represented by both abundant tracks and osteological remains. However, skeletal remains of theropod dinosaurs are rare, and the diversity of theropod tracks has only partially been documented in the literature. Here we describe the only non-dental osteological theropod remain recovered so far, an isolated anterior caudal vertebra, as well as the largest theropod tracks found. The caudal vertebra can be shown to represent a megalosaurine megalosaurid and represents the largest theropod skeletal remain described from Europe so far. The tracks are also amongst the largest theropod footprints reported from any setting and can be assigned to two different morphotypes, one being characterized by its robustness and a weak mesaxony, and the other characterized by a strong mesaxony, representing a more gracile trackmaker. We discuss the recently proposed distinction between robust and gracile large to giant theropod tracks and their possible trackmakers during the Late Jurassic-Berriasian. In the absence of complete pedal skeletons of most basal tetanurans, the identity of the maker of Jurassic giant theropod tracks is difficult to establish. However, the notable robustness of megalosaurine megalosaurids fits well with the described robust morphotypes, whereas more slender large theropod tracks might have been made by a variety of basal tetanurans, including allosaurids, metriocanthosaurids or afrovenatorine megalosaurids, or even exceptionally large ceratosaurs. Concerning osteological remains of large theropods from the Late Jurassic of Europe, megalosaurids seem to be more abundant than previously recognized and occur in basically all Jurassic deposits where theropod remains have been found, whereas allosauroids seem to be represented by allosaurids in Western Europe and metriacanthosaurids in more eastern areas. Short-term fluctuations in sea level might have allowed exchange of large theropods between the islands that constituted Europe during the Late Jurassic.

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