The largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Switzerland has been uncovered in a clay pit in northern Switzerland. The eight-metre skeleton of a plateosaurus is thought to have been around 25 years old when it died.
“This herbivore lived 210 million years ago and was discovered in the Upper Triassic geologic layer,” said Ben Pabst, who has been leader of the dig in Frick, canton Aargau, since 1976. The dinosaur’s head has yet to be found.
Plateosaurus was a bipedal herbivore with a small skull on a long, mobile neck, sharp but plump plant-crushing teeth, powerful hind limbs, short but muscular arms and grasping hands with large claws on three fingers, possibly used for defence and feeding.
Unusually for a dinosaur, instead of having a fairly uniform adult size, fully grown individuals ranged from 4.8-10 metres long and weighed 600-4,000 kilograms.
The site in Frick is known around the world for the density of dinosaur skeletons.
“We have here an unbelievably large site. So far we have been able to determine an area with a diameter of three kilometres,” Pabst explained on Wednesday, adding that one hectare will yield some 500 animals and that for every 100 herbivore dinosaurs there is one carnivore.
Around 210 million years ago, Frick was flat, very hot, tropical and criss-crossed with rivers. Pabst assumes that at various times a range of dinosaurs, which weighed several tons, got stuck in the boggy land and died of thirst.
Since many complete skeletons of legs have been found, he believes the animals were mummified by the heat.
The theory that the dinosaurs sank in mud was strengthened by the fact that the plateosaurus in question was found with its legs spread.
The Frick site has an annual budget of CHF50,000 ($52,800) and the work is heavily reliant on volunteers. The latest find is too big for the Frick dinosaur museum, so a renovation is being considered.
swissinfo.ch and agencies