Research Interests

As a vertebrate paleontologist, my main research interest are fossil archosaurs, most notably sauropod dinosaurs and their functional morphology (that is, how the shape of their anatomical structures might shed light on their functions during the life of the organism).


Thanks to my supervisors José Luis Sanz (UAM) and Francisco Ortega (UNED) I began studying titanosaur osteoderms. Titanosaurs were the last of the sauropod dinosaurs, being the only group of these awe-inspiring creatures to reach the uppermost Cretaceous, that is, the end of the nonavian dinosaur days. Titanosaurs are unique in many ways among sauropods: they were the largest of the largest, their skeleton was the most pneumatized (that is, invaded by air sacs) and they were the only sauropods to have osteoderms.

Osteoderms are dermal bones, that is, bones embedded in the skin which originate not from a cartilage precursor but from the skin (dermal) cells instead. They are commonly called bony armor as well, and they are present in crocodiles as well as in stegosaur dinosaurs and most notably ankylosaurs. Titanosaur osteoderms were very poorly known until recently, but are known to have unique traits that help them differentiate them from other dinosaurian osteoderms (D'Emic et al. 2009).
Titanosaur with hypothetical osteoderm arrangement (based upon available evidence) and the reconstruction of their de-mineralization process.

At present, we can tell apart from histological evidence two types of dermal ossifications in titanosaurs: osteoderms (larger plates) and dermal ossicles (millimeter sized, paving the skin in a mosaic fashion) but we don't know very well how many types of osteoderms were (although research suggests two at least), if these types of osteoderms were due to positional or phylogenetic differences (although research suggests the latter), their positions and number on the titanosaur bodies (although research suggest titanosaurs were not heavily armored and that tail and sacrum are probable regions to bear osteoderms) and what were the exact functions (although defense and mineral reservoirs are the candidates with the better evidence at present). Recently, some specimens have been shown to be partially de-mineralized, supporting the mineral reservoir hypothesis (Curry-Rogers et al. 2011, Vidal et al. 2017).


My PhD. focuses on the evolution of sauropod postcranial biomechanics research using virtual fossils and CAD software.