About 174 million years ago, a long-necked dinosaur roamed the plains of today's northwest China. The baptized Lingwulong shenqi or the Lingwu Amazing Dragon, was a member of the sauropod family, a group of dinosaurs that includes the famous brontosaurus and the largest land mammals traveling the earth. The Lingwu dinosaur measured about 50 feet from the head to the whip-tail, enjoyed a herbal diet and, in a shocking turn for paleontologists, burst not only 15 million years earlier than previously thought, but in a completely different region than expected
's Aristos Georgiou reports that an international team led by the Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has excavated fossil remains from eight to ten individual dinosaurs since the beginning of excavations in 2005 Paleontologists compiled a profile of Lingwulong – published in the journal Nature Communications – and long crumbled over the origins of the sauropod family.
Xu tells Georgiou that researchers thought Diplodocoides, a subgroup of a subgroup of sauropods known as Nesauropods, emerged in the aftermath of Asia's secession from the Pangea sup 164 to 158 million years ago. (The Nesauropods include most of the "famed" sauropods, such as the Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus.) As noted by  PBT News & # 39; Mary Halton, Neasacopod fossils were found in North America, Europe, and East Africa, but none was older than 160 million years, and none was found in Asia. The lack of Neasauropods in Asia led the scientists to conclude that the separation from Pangea created a vast sea that hopped Jurassic animals off the continent.
According to Michael Greshko of National Geographic the new discovery suggests that the line of sauropods diverted 15 million years earlier than originally thought.
"We suggest that many of the groups supposedly absent in China may well have been present, but we just do not see them there because of the poor sampling in the fossil record, but because of their real absence," paleontologist and study coauthor Paul Upchurch tells Greshko
In an UCL statement, Upchurch adds that [Lingwulong & # 39; presence in Asia shows that several species of nesauropods spread across pangea before fragmentation of the supercontinent What contradicts the idea that Asia's dinosaurs have developed in isolation from the rest of the world. Now the 174 million year old fossils are the earliest known Neosauropods, which push back the emergence of the dinosaur family from the late Jurassic to the Middle Jurassic.
However, not all paleontologists are convinced. John Whitlock of Mount Aloysius College tells Gizmodo 's Jessica Boddy that he does not believe that Lingwulong is a Diplomodocoid and may be more associated with Chinese sauropods Mamenchisaurus Omeisaurus
Researchers are still learning about the "amazing dragon" and his habits, but Xu tells  Newsweek 's Georgiou that Lingwulong probably traveled in herds and ate on sea plants. Philip Mannion, a co-author and paleontologist at Imperial College London, further explains that the species was similar to other sauropods, although it had a slightly shorter neck.
"They probably moved slowly around half their time in small herds and ate a good deal," he concludes.
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