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  • Cristiano Dal Sasso (L), Simone Maganuco (C) and Andrea Cau examine the bones of Saltriovenator zanellai.

    Cristiano Dal Sasso (L), Simone Maganuco (C) and Andrea Cau examine the bones of Saltriovenator zanellai. | Photo: Reuters/Handout/Gabriele Bindellini

Published 20 December 2018

Saltriovenator is the first Italian dinosaur of the Jurassic age and the only dinosaur found in the Lombardy region.

Wednesday Italian paleontologists presented evidence that the world’s oldest large-predator dinosaur inhabited the European country some 200 million years ago.

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"Saltriovenator predates the massive meat-eating dinosaurs by over 25 million years and sheds light on the evolution of the three-fingered hand of birds," Dal Sasso of Milan's Natural History Museum said in a statement.

According to the group of scientists, the Saltriovenator zanellai - an eight-meter-long ceratosaurus - weighed about a ton and were found in the flatlands of Lombardy in northern Italy.  

"He was a real war machine," paleontologists Cristiano Dal Sasso, Simone Maganuco and Andrea Cau stated while presenting the find at Milan's Palazzo Reale. 

Saltriovenator zanellai comes from “Saltrio”, which references the Italian municipality where the fossils were found; "venator," which means hunter in Latin; and "zanellai," which honors Angelo Zanella - the fossilist who discovered the remains in 1996.

The group also disclosed other attributes of the new species, including the dinosaur’s 80-centimeter skull, dagger-sharp teeth, steel-strong claws and two-legged hunting and ambush specialty.

Saltriovenator is the first Italian dinosaur of the Jurassic age and the only dinosaur found in the Lombardy region, the scientists explained, adding that the creature likely alternated living between the beach and the forest areas.

The fossils revealed that the creature was the largest carnivorous dinosaur in that era. The find took more than two decades to extract - as well as assemble and interpret - from the Saltrio marble quarry location, some 50 miles north of Milan.

"Not all fragments match, but many are adjacent and allow us to virtually reconstruct the shape of whole bones," Dal Sasso said in the statement. "To complete the puzzle we also used a 3-D printer: part of the left scapula was turned into the right one thanks to a 'mirroring printing' which gave us a more complete scapula."

Saltriovenator is the second dinosaur ever unearthed in Italy.

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