A new species of dinosaur boasting an intriguing appendage has been found in Spain. The intriguing appendage we are talking about is a sail on the prehistoric animal’s back.
Scientists are saying that the sail is actually a ridge poking up from the spine of this plant-eating dino. They are, however, not yet sure what was the function of this unique feature. Was it meant for helping the animals regulate their body temperature? Was it the body part storing extra fat? Or was it just for display? Right now, the scientists don’t have any concrete answer to these questions.
The new sail-backed dino species has been named Morelladon beltrani. It used to roam around this planet around 125 million years back. It was a little over 8 ft tall and had its body stretched almost 20 ft long. In spite of having such a big structure, the animal was regarded as a medium-sized dino species of that era.
Scientists exploring Spain discovered just a partial skeleton of Morelladon. The fossil primarily contains the animal’s pelvic bones and vertebrae. Analysis of the vertebrae allowed the researchers to know about the sail on Morelladon’s back. They spotted stretched out spinal bones, which would have stuck out vertically from the ancient animal’s back resulting in the formation of the unique feature.
Dr. Fernando Escaso, one of the authors of the study, said that he and his colleagues found it difficult to determine what was the actual purpose or function of the elongated neural spine.
According to Dr. Escaso, the sail was probably meant for thermoregulation and helped in keeping the body temperatures of these ancient animals normal. However, he said that his thought might not be true, and there’s a possibility that the sail turns out to be something like the hump of a camel, which means the sail is meant for storing extra fat for helping the animal survive in times of insufficient food supply.
Dr. Escaso and his co-researchers have also not managed to get any direct evidence revealing the hump-like function of Morelladon’s sail. This is because they have just got hold of the animal’s bones and not their tissue or fat.
Dr. Paul Sereno of University of Chicago, a paleontologist associated with the study, on the other hand, feels that the structure is just for display. Dr. Sereno said that these prehistoric creatures possibly used the sail to appear bigger and more attractive to their mates.