Fossils of Early Giant Dinosaur Discovered in Argentina

Huge new gentle giant dinosaur the size of a double decker bus discovered in Argentina

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. Its kind lived between 201 and 237 million years ago, dating the animal to the Late Triassic period, and is 30 million years older than the oldest dinosaur ever found. Dinosaur fans need to learn a new name, the lessemsaurids, because these were the first dinosaurs to grow to giant sizes of around 10 tonnes, back in the Triassic Period some 215 million years ago.

A dinosaur the size of a double decker bus that roamed the planet more than 200 million years ago has been dug up in Argentina. 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.

"This reveals that the first pulse towards gigantism in dinosaurs occurred over 30 million years before the appearance of the first [true sauropods]", write the researchers in their study. 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.

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

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Ingentia was an early member of a dinosaur group called sauropods that later included Earth's biggest terrestrial creatures including the Patagonian behemoths Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus and Patagotitan.

The plant eater, described in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is an ancestor of its titanosaur cousins Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus, renowned for their enormous necks and tails.

They had nostrils high up on their skulls - rather than being located at the end of the snout like those of so many other terrestrial vertebrates.

Unlike later sauropods, Ingentia's legs were not pillar-like and its neck was shorter.

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

Like their notorious descendants, they also had elongated necks and tails. It possessed a bird-like respiratory system, related to the development of air sacs inside the body that gave it large reserves of oxygenated air and kept it cool despite its large size.

Growth rings seen in its bones show it grew very fast.

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