BUFFETAUT E., DELFINO M. & PINNA G., 2001. The crocodilians, pterosaurs and dinosaurs from the Campanian-Santonian of Villaggio del Pescatore (northeastern Italy): a preliminary report. Abstracts "6th European Workshop on Vertebrate Palaeontology", Florence-Montevarchi, Italy, September 19-22 2001: 28.
Laminated carbonates of Santonian-Campanian age at Villaggio del Pescatore (Duino, Trieste, northeastern Italy) have yielded fairly abundant and well preserved remains of various vertebrates. Besides fishes, the vertebrate assemblage from Villaggio del Pescatore includes crocodilians, dinosaurs and pterosaurs. Since the painstaking and time-consuming preparation of the material by Flavio Bacchia and his team is still under way, and detailed study of the specimens is still in progress, only preliminary observations and conclusions are presented here.
Crocodilians are represented by several specimens, including both isolated elements and at least two partial skeletons. A specimen including a well preserved head and the anterior portion of the trunk is of especial importance. Vertebrae are procoelous. Although it is not yet possible to examine the palate because of unfinished preparation, the broad, short-snouted skull suggests alligatorid affinities.
Pterosaurs are represented only by a single isolated bone, which is clearly a fourth (wing) metacarpal, lacking the middle portion of the shaft. A precise identification is not possible on the basis of such fragmentary material, but the specimen apparently belongs to a middle-sized pterodactyloid pterosaur.
Dinosaurs are represented by at least four individuals. All clearly belong to the family Hadrosauridae, but the exact number of taxa present is uncertain, as some of the specimens have not yet been fully prepared and noticeable size differences are apparent. One nearly complete and exquisitely preserved skeleton (lacking only a few distal caudal vertebrae), slightly over 4 metres in length, has been fully prepared. It is the most complete hadrosaur specimen hitherto found in Europe, and apparently belongs to a new taxon. This hadrosaur shows various primitive features, including relatively narrow premaxillae, strong denticles on the premaxilla and predentary, a rather low number of tooth emplacements, and a very broad condyle on the quadrate. Other features appear to be specialised and possibly autapomorphic; they include a very long jugal bone and very large infratemporal opening, the complete loss of the 5th digit of the manus, a femur that is shorter than the tibia, chevron bones forming a distal "boot", and distal caudal vertebrae that are strongly flattened dorsoventrally. The new hadrosaur resembles the primitive hadrosaur Telmatosaurus, from Romania, in some respects, but differs from it in several features, including relatively narrow lower teeth, a dorsally very broad scapula, and a humerus with a relatively strong and angular deltopectoral crest.
The hadrosaurs from Villaggio del Pescatore appear to be significantly older than those found in Romania and western Europe. In southern France, there is no evidence of hadrosaurs before the late Maastrichtian. Although their relationships with other European hadrosaurs are not yet fully understood, the new hadrosaurs are potentially very important for our understanding of hadrosaurian evolution in Europe. More generally, taken together with recent crocodile and dinosaur finds from Slovenia, the vertebrate fauna from Villaggio del Pescatore, coming as it does from the Dinaro-Adriatic carbonate platform, should provide important evidence about the poorly known continental palaeobiogeography of this part of the Tethyan regions in the Late Cretaceous.