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They found the skeleton of a dinosaur from 70 million years ago connected from skull to tail

They found the skeleton of a dinosaur from 70 million years ago connected from skull to tail

(CNN) — A discovery in southern France has revealed a rare specimen: an almost complete skeleton of a dinosaur connected from the back skull to the tail.

The huge fossil was discovered in May 2022, after amateur paleontologist Damien Bocheteau, now 25, and his dog found something unusual while walking in a forest in Montolier, France. Bochetto had noticed the edge of a cliff that had recently collapsed and decided to take a closer look when he saw an exposed bone sticking out of the ground, local media France Bleu reported on February 13.

The Archaeological and Paleontological Cultural Society of the Crozey Museum, in collaboration with the French National Center for Scientific Research, identified the approximately 10-metre-long fossil as a titanosaur skeleton during excavation. Bochetto, who has been a member of the society for eight years, told CNN that the discovery of dinosaur remains is always “exciting and interesting for scientific research and understanding of the ecosystems of the time,” after the bones were found in almost their original anatomical position. That's what makes this discovery so unusual.

“From a museum standpoint, this will allow almost complete animals to be displayed to the general public in anatomical positions, which is great,” Bochetto added via email.

The massive fossil was discovered in May 2022, when a collapsed cliff edge left bone exposed. Credit: Damian Bochetto

Jean-Marc said that a group of history and archeology enthusiasts established the Cultural Society for Archeology and Paleontology in 1975 to preserve the heritage of the town of Crozey, and many of its members became paleontology enthusiasts thanks to the wealth of dinosaur fossils from the region. Veyssières, a member of the group and one of the fossil preparers for this discovery. Today, the association consists of residents of the region, including some scholars and students.

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“The most exciting thing was our realization that we had at least one animal that was anatomically related, and that it was a titanosaur, a long-necked dinosaur,” Vissiere said in an email. “(Bochetto) is a wonderful and curious nature lover, he spends a lot of time exploring the area looking for new areas. (…) Become an expert on the Upper Cretaceous fauna of our region.

The society has been excavating the site, which Bochetto refers to as a “bed of bones,” a term paleontologists use to describe a dense area of ​​animal bones and other fossilized remains, for the past two years. The newly announced discovery was not Bochetto's first.

During the excavations, 70% of the entire titanosaur skeleton was recovered, and it was recently revealed along with other fossils of various dinosaurs and vertebrates, including some with almost complete anatomical connection. Other remains identified include those of a rhabdodon (a herbivore, such as a titanosaur) and parts of the skeletons of carnivores such as theropods and crocodiles, according to Bochetto.

The titanosaur skeleton is currently in the Croze Museum laboratory, where it will be studied further, Vissiere said.

Damien Bocheteau (left) and Jean-Marc Visier (right) are members of the Société Cultural Archaeologique et Palaeontologie at the Croze Museum, where the fossil is currently kept. Credit: Damian Bochetto

Titanosaur intact

The researchers estimated the age of the newly discovered fossil to be between 70 and 72 million years ago, but titanosaurs roamed on four legs from the late Jurassic period until the end of the Cretaceous period, that is, about 163.5 to 66 million years ago. Titanosaurs belonged to a larger group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, a family of long-necked herbivores that were among the largest dinosaurs of their time, according to Britannica.

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Fossil remains of titanosaurs have been widely found in Europe, but little has been discovered in terms of anatomy, Bochetto said. Matthew Carano, a research geologist and curator of dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History, said finding a skeleton in this connected state indicates that the body was buried before it completely decomposed, leaving “some tissue that holds the bones together.” Smithsonian Institution.

The integrity of the sample “will make it easier to determine whether it is a new species or a new sample of an already known species,” Carano said in an email. He added: “It will take some time to learn all the details about this new specimen, but I am sure it will provide important new information about this group of dinosaurs.”

He said the area where Bocheteau discovered the specimen is known to be rich in fossils of dinosaurs and other species that lived at the same time, and it “builds one of the largest collections of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs in France.” He added that the association did not announce this discovery until after the completion of excavation work to protect the archaeological site.

The society plans to continue searching for fossils and continue exploring the area, and group members hope to secure funding “to create a large-scale museum that can house and present these collections,” Bochetto said.