Saturday, 18 August, 2018

Fossil of new dinosaur species discovered in Argentina

Cecilia Apaldetti and colleagues investigate the bones More Cecilia Apaldetti and colleagues investigate the bones More
Elijah Vega | 11 July, 2018, 09:38

What is unexpected is Ingentia prima dates back to Triassic, 30 million years before the well-known huge Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, which are thought to be the earliest giant dinosaurs, said Dr. Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh. "That's the surprise", said Cecilia Apaldetti, a government and San Juan University researcher.

They had long necks and tails and relatively small skulls and brains.

According to scientists, Ingenia prima was the first dinosaur species to reach gigantism and even though it was a long way from the 70 tonnes (tons) that the biggest sauropods weighed from the end of the Cretaceous period (145-66 million years ago), the speed of bone tissue accumulation was greater than that of species from its era and the biggest giants that lived in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina.

Previously, it was thought that for a dinosaur to grow to giant size, straight legs and continuous rapid, growth were essential.

They all belonged to a family of dinosaurs called "lessemsaurids" and lived in what is now Argentina, but was then the southeast corner of the supercontinent Pangaea.

For most dinosaurs, gigantism proved to be an evolutionary survival tool, especially among herbivores who could use their size as a form of defence against predators.

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The specimen was found alongside the remains of three individuals belonging to the already known species Lessemsaurus sauropoides. It was discovered in the Balde de Leyes dig site in San Juan province, 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) west of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

Like their notorious descendants, they also had elongated necks and tails.

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.

'In addition, this kind of breathing implied the presence of cavities, or deep holes, in their bones - known as a pneumatic skeleton - that lightened the weight and would have favoured a large body size'.

The last, iconic sauropods had the benefit of a long history of evolutionary innovation in this regard, said Dr Apaldetti.

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