Skin impressions left by giant dinosaur in muddy river bank unearthed
Astonishing skin impressions left by a giant dinosaur resting in a muddy river bank 66 million years ago have been unearthed by scientists in Spain.
The unusual fossil, formed by sand petrifying into sedimentary rock over millennia, clearly shows the distinctive pattern of large scales that covered the creature's hide.
Experts believe the scales are too large for the two-legged carnivores and plant-eaters that roamed the area in the Late Cretaceous era, just before dinosaurs became extinct.
Instead, the originator of the impressions is thought to have been a huge four-footed sauropod, possibly a titanosaur - one of the biggest animals ever to walk the Earth.
Footprints found near the site support the titanosaur theory.
Lead researcher Victor Fodevilla, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), said: "This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event, in all of the world.
"There are very few samples of fossilised skin registered, and the only sites with similar characteristics can be found in the United States and Asia."
The discovery was made in the village of Vallcebre, near Barcelona, in an area that was once the bank of an ancient river.
It is thought the dinosaur left an imprint of its scales when it lay down in the mud.
By chance, the impression was covered in sand which eventually solidified into sandstone, preserving the relief of the creature's skin.
Two skin impressions were found, one about 20 cm across and the other five centimetres, separated by a distance of 1.5 metres. It is assumed they were made by the same animal.
The "rose" pattern of the scales is characteristic of certain dinosaurs, said the researchers, who describe their find in the journal Geological Magazine.