Fossils suggest giant dinosaurs lived millions of years earlier than previously thought

12 July, 2018, 22:08 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Argentine investigators working on the extraction of the remains of a giant dinosaur 'Ingenia prima' from the Balde de Leyes formation near Marayes San Juan province Argentina

In a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers reported the discovery of new dinosaur species that suggest gigantism evolved about 30 million years earlier than scientists previously thought. Although it has a much shorter neck and more theropod-like feet, the family resemblance is clear. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes some of the largest land animals ever known to have existed.

Large size, scientists believe they began to be achieved only in the middle and at the end of the Jurassic period, about 180-155 million years ago, when the first neosauropods, including Diplodocus, argentinosaurus and all of the largest dinosaurs of that era. "It is a true giant, especially for that moment of evolution where most of the animals that coexisted did not exceed two meters in height and the largest reached, at most, three tons".

But the earliest examples of this group were small, two-legged creatures. What's more, I. prima had a bird-like cervical air sac and a neck with a high surface-to-volume ratio - characteristics that functioned like a built-in air conditioning system, allowing this oversized animal to stay cool.

On top of that, Ingentia also seems to have grown in seasonal spurts kind of like a tree, instead of steadily like most other animals.

"This reveals that the first pulse towards gigantism in dinosaurs occurred over 30 million years before the appearance of the first [true sauropods]", write the researchers in their study. Here, as noted by paleontologists, overlie rocks of norisova and Rhaetian tiers, formed in the late Triassic period, approximately 210-205 million years ago.

The fossil was found in the San Juan Province, in north-west Argentina, during a field trip.

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On the other hand, traces of blood vessels in these bones indicate that these lizards grow up "jerks", which was not typical for later sauropods and all the other dinosaurs didn't go on straight legs, and squatting.

But Ingentia Prima, which was found alongside the remains of three individuals belonging to the already known species Lessemsaurus sauropoides, changes this.

According to one of the researchers, "As soon as we found it, we realized it was something different".

The paleontologist Diego Pol at the Egidio Feruglio Museum in Argentina said that the discovery "gives a new look at the magnitude of the evolutionary explosion that the dinosaurs had".

"It is a new way to get body size in an early moment in evolutionary history", said Dr Apaldetti.

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