Stage 16 | Carcassonne – Foix / The vineyard dinosaur

 179 km




 The vineyard-saur of te Aude


The ampelosaurus or also called the vineyard dinosaurDuring the stage from Carcassonne to the south, the first part will come through the valley of the Aude. Close to Limoux, the route heads west, and as they progress, the first foothills of the Pyrenees come into sight. The Pyrenees form the crumple zone that formed because Iberia shoved below Europe. Because of erosion of the uplifted southern margin of Europe in the south of France, rocks that formed tens of millions of years ago are now exposed at the surface, and these tell us a story of the Cretaceous and the vineyard dinosaur.


Forming of the Pyrenees

The precursors of what we now call the Pyrenees already started to form at the end of the era of the dinosaurs, so at the end of the Cretaceous. Sea level was a lot higher than today because there was no ice on the poles. As a result, much of Europe was covered in shallow, tropical seas. The islands that rose up from these seas, like the crystalline massifs of central France, were the territory of plenty of dinosaurs. When the Pyrenees started to be pushed up, rivers dumped thick packages of sandy and muddy sediments. Sometimes, also a dinosaur bone, or even an entire skeleton, became covered by these sediments. Todays stage will pass through these red-orange deposits, now often covered by vineyards - including those of the Blanquette de Limoux, a sweet bubbly wine.


The vineyard dinosaur

The skeleton of the Ampelosaurus

Not far south of Limoux, around Espéraza, countless remains of dinosaurs have been recovered from these red-orange deposits. One species has even been named after the vineyards: the titanosaur Ampelosaurus atacis, a middle-large long-neck dino that wore a special jacket of armor plates and that is well known from the excavation of Campargne-sur-Aude. “The vineyard-saur of te Aude’, is the literal translation of the name. These fossils can be visited in the dinosaur museum of Espéraza. We place our bets on the tallest rider of the peloton, especially when he rides with a titanium frame!


Anne Schulp - Professor at Utrecht University and researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the Netherlands

My research focuses mainly on tetrapods from the Age of Dinosaurs; I have a particular interest in dinosaurs, mosasaurs and fossil trackways. I currently work on T. rex and Triceratops from North America, and on mosasaurs from Angola. Check the Geo-TdF team.

Anne Schulp


GeoMap Tour of the Day - 16

You can zoom and pan the map, you can click on the map to get a description of the lithology (rocks). If you move the mouse over the profile (the yellow line in the graph below), the location is also shown on the map.

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