Miragaia (named after Miragaia, the parish in Portugal and geologic unit where its remains were found) is a genus of herbivorous stegosaurid dinosaur. Its fossils have been found in Upper Jurassic rocks in Portugal. Miragaia has the longest neck known for any stegosaurian, which included at least seventeen vertebrae.
Miragaia is based on holotype ML 433, a nearly complete anterior half of a skeleton with partial skull (the first cranial material for a European stegosaurid). The remains were found after the construction of a road between the villages of Miragaia and Sobral. The rear half of the skeleton was probably destroyed by the roadcut. The fossils were dug up in August 1999 and August 2001. Among the recovered bones were most of the snout, a right postorbital, both angulars of the lower jaws, fifteen neck vertebrae (the first two, which articulated with the skull, were absent), two anterior dorsal vertebrae, twelve ribs, a chevron, the shoulder bones, most of the forelimbs including a possible os carpi intermedium, a right first metacarpal and three first phalanges; and thirteen bony plates plus a spike. The bones were not articulated but dispersed over a surface of about five to seven metres, though there was a partial concentration of fossils that could be salvaged within a single block.
The total length of Miragaia has been estimated at 5.5 – 6 metres (18–20 ft). In 2010, Gregory S. Paul estimated the length at 6.5 metres, the weight at two tonnes. Histology shows that the holotype specimen was agout 21 years old.
Miragaia, like all known stegosaurians, showed an array of plates and spikes, consisting of skin ossifications or osteoderms. Paired triangular plates ran down the midline of the neck, reconstructed as eight pairs. They were asymmetrical with a convex outer side and a concave inner side. Their bases were not very expanded with the exception of a possible last pair, located on the front back. They were obtuse but lightly hooked at the front. A rather long, narrow and straight preserved spike was at first considered to have been a shoulder spine, but was later seen as part of some tail arrangement.
Miragaia was placed in the Stegosauridae in 2009. Mateus and colleagues performed a phylogenetic analysis and found Miragaia to group with Dacentrurus in a clade Dacentrurinae, newly named for the occasion, the sister group to Stegosaurus (the latter genus was in the cladistic analysis considered to include Hesperosaurus and Wuerhosaurus).
Source: NatGeo.com, mentalfloss.com