On the Pedals of a Sauropod

An enormous fossilised claw of a giant Sauropod has been uncovered by field workers excavating material from a dig site about forty-five miles east of Limoges in the picturesque Poitou-Charente region of France.  The site located at Angeac-Charente, has yielded a number of Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossils including vertebrae from a Stegosaur and Sauropod teeth.  The claw which may have been located on the first digit of the front foot, measures an astonishing thirty-four centimetres in length.  Heavy rain in this part of France had severely hampered this summer’s field work, but ironically the rainfall had help expose this enormous fossil.

The Huge Fossilised Claw Photographed at the Dig Site

An ungual phalanx of an indeterminate Sauropod

An ungual phalanx of an indeterminate Sauropod

Picture Credit: Photo DR.

The bone is referred to as an ungual phalanx, it is the very last bone found at the end of the toe/finger (usually) and this is the bone that would have supported the claw.  The dig site has over the last six years or so, yielded in the region of 4,000 fossilised bones.  Despite the wealth of fossil material it is not possible to determine the species or indeed the genus to which this Sauropod belonged.  However, based on comparisons with other Sauropod claws, palaeontologists estimate that the individual dinosaur whose bone this is, might have reached a length in excess of forty metres.

The site has attracted the attention of a number of France’s leading vertebrate palaeontologists including Ronan Allain, (Museum of Natural History in Paris) and Jean-François Tournepiche, curator at the Museum of Angoulême.  One of the biggest Sauropod femurs ever found in the northern hemisphere was discovered at the same site four years ago.  It is not known whether this thigh bone and the new claw fossil discovery come from the same dinosaur.  At least seven different types of dinosaur roamed this part of France around 130 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous).

To read about the discovery of giant Sauropod tracks not far from the Swiss border: Giant Sauropod Fossilised Footprints Found in France

Sediment analysis in conjunction with fossilised plant remains suggest that this region was a large, low-lying swamp.  Sauropod dinosaurs had three prominent claws on their hind feet and a bigger single claw on the first digit of their front feet.  Scientists have speculated that this claw might have been used for defence or in combat between rivals.  We at Everything Dinosaur, don’t favour this hypothesis, preferring instead to consider this huge front digit claw as like a sort of “crampon”.  The claw would have helped these enormous dinosaurs to keep their balance and to stop them sliding in soft mud.  Bones in the feet are referred to as “pedals”, hence our caption “on the pedals of a Sauropod”.

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