Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Fossil of first ‘giant dinosaur’ species found in Argentina

Ingentia prima A rendering of an Ingentia prima is seen in this handout image
Guillermo Lane | 12 July, 2018, 22:13

"This new discovery was a pleasant surprise, and I think it's one of the most important dinosaur finds of the last few years", Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who wasn't involved in the study, told Live Science.

Scientists previously believed that giant dinosaurs didn't come into existence until 25 million years later.

It used to be thought that such giant dinosaurs thrived in the Jurassic Period.

The fossil was discovered from the northwest of Argentina during a field trip.

"Before this discovery, gigantism was considered to have emerged during the Jurassic period, approximately 180 million years ago, but Ingentia prima lived at the end of the Triassic, between 210 and 205 million years ago", said Cecilia Apaldetti, a paleontologist from the Universidad Nacional de San Juan in Argentina, and the study's lead author.

An improved respiratory system and modifications to the vertebral musculature and hind limbs were key factors to the giant growth spurt, theorize the researchers.

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The dinosaur had an elongated neck and tail, and about 10m long.

The dinosaur - named Ingentia prima, meaning "the first giant" - was up to 33ft long and weighed about 10 tons, living about 210 million years ago during the Triassic Period. "It was at least twice as large as the other herbivores of the time". Called the Ingenia prima, this dinosaur was thrice the dimensions of the bulkiest of Triassic dinosaurs.

But Ingentia Prima, which was found alongside the remains of three individuals belonging to the already known species Lessemsaurus sauropoides, changes this. The partial fossil, found buried within the southern outcrops of the Quebrada del Barro Formation in northwestern Argentina, consists of several neck vertebrae, a shoulder bone, and several bones from its legs and tail.

The dinosaur's bone fragments displayed cyclical and seasonal growth, with a different kind of tissue to other sauropods, which allowed it to grow very quickly. I. prima grew via a combination of very fast growth spurts and bird-like lungs able to supply large amounts of oxygen and keep an huge body cool, scientists report in Nature Ecology & Evolution. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes some of the largest land animals ever known to have existed.

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

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