Double-decker dinosaur fossil find makes scientists rethink evolution of Jurassic giants

11 July, 2018, 09:36 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Cecilia Apaldetti and colleagues investigate the bones More

Now, the discovery of Ingentia prima - a member of the Lessemsaurid group of dinosaurs and an ancestor of sauropods - shows that some dinosaurs had acquired several key characteristics during the Late Triassic that paved the way toward gigantism.

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.

The monster's discovery reveals that giant dinosaurs evolved a staggering 30 million years earlier than expected.

Dinosaurs first appeared earlier in the Triassic Period, roughly 230 million years ago.

Palaeontologists figured that many, if not most, of the characteristics required for bodies in excess of 10 tonnes emerged during the early Jurassic, but the incomplete fossil record has clouded the details of this critical evolutionary stage.

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

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.


Its size would also have put it at less risk of being eaten by the many flesh eating dinosaurs that were already around.

"Gigantism is an evolutionary survival strategy, especially for herbivorous animals, because size is a form of defense against predators", Apaldetti said.

Ingentia, known from two partial skeletons, was discovered in Argentina's San Juan Province.

The remains included shoulder blades, cervical vertebrae and bones from the forelimbs, feet and skull of the four dinosaurs.

"This respiratory system is related to the development of air sacs inside their bodies - like modern birds", said Dr Apaldetti.

I. prima exhibited features that allowed sauropods to become sauropods, such as an accelerated growth rate (as seen in its bone structure), and straight legs capable of supporting tremendous weight. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes some of the largest land animals ever known to have existed.

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