New Giant Dinosaur Discovered That Rewrites Evolutionary History

Cecilia Apaldetti and colleagues investigate the bones More

"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.

The findings, presented in a published on Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, introduces this dinosaur species as Ingentia Prime (First Immense) and is described as one of the first giant sauropods.

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

As the researchers pointed out, during early-Triassic, when dinosaurs started to grow, there were many small reptiles which evolved in giant dinosaurs.

Introducing Ingentia prima, a large, four-legged, long-necked dinosaur that lived a whopping 47 million years before giants like Diplodocus and Brontosaurus shook the Earth.

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 researchers found that the weight of I. prima ranged between seven and 10 tons, and showed elongated neck and long tail albeit not as pronounced as those seen in their later relatives. Paleontologists figured that many, if not most, of the characteristics required for bodies in excess of 10 tons emerged during the early Jurassic, but the incomplete fossil record has clouded the details of this critical evolutionary stage.

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.

The creature has been dubbed "Ingentia prima" (Latin for "first giant"), and it's been classed as a sauropodomorph, the group that would later evolve into the very big sauropods.

The new dinosaur species Ingentia prima and similar species are grouped together as "lessemsaurids".

Reconstruction of Ingentia prima, a dinosaur from the Late Triassic period. It was at least twice as large as the other plant-eaters that shared the warm, savannah environment it inhabited. 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 enormous body cool, scientists report in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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

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