Fossil of first giant dinosaur discovered in Argentina

Fossil of first giant dinosaur discovered in Argentina

It also showed that there were different ways giant dinosaurs evolved. Their distant ancestors were small, agile, two-legged dinosaurs known as prosauropods.

Fossils of the creature called Ingentia prima, a species of sauropodomorph, suggest that dinosaurs grew in size 30 million years earlier than previously thought.

The scientists debunk the notion that the tendency toward a "giant body" occurred during the Jurassic but instead began to occur some 30 million years before the first modern sauropods appeared.

Sauropods were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous. "It was at least twice as large as the other herbivores of the time".

There have been excavations of four skeletons in all, out of which one is an entirely new species, and the other three are of related dinosaurs.

Previously it was believed dinosaurs first appeared around 230 million years ago and took 50 million years to become so large.

Researchers in Argentina have discovered what they say is the oldest-known giant dinosaur and it's altering the way paleontologists view the evolution of dinosaurs as a whole.

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The team that found and studied the fossils was led by Cecilia Apaldetti from the National University of San Juan.

The dinosaur had an elongated neck and tail, although not on the scale of Diplodocus.

What is really unexpected is that the lessemsaurids achieved their huge bodies independently of the big sauropods like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus, which did indeed evolve later during the Jurassic.

Researchers said the dinosaur - named Ingentia prima, meaning "the first giant" - was up to 33 feet (10 meters) long and weighed about 10 tons, living about 210 million years ago during the Triassic Period. Cyclic growth was common in the dinosaurs of that period, but they usually stopped growing until they reached nearly 1.8 tons in weight and 3 meters in length. As for the bones, they belonged to the neck, tail, front and back legs.

But unlike their more recent counterparts they stood on bent legs and had bones that grew thick through accelerated bursts - showing there is more than one way to "make" a giant dinosaur.

And they had the same bird like air sacs - respiratory structures which are thought to have been necessary to keep large animals cool.

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

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