The fossils of a newly discovered long-necked dinosaur force scientists to rethink the origins of one of the most famous dinosaur lines.
Xing Xu and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing studied the sub-skeletons of ten individuals of a new sauropod species. Sauropods were among the largest living things that ever populated the earth, a family of dinosaurs that belong to Brontosaurus or Diplodocus
Lingwulong shenqi literally means "amazing dragon of Lingwu ", after the city near where it was found.
The special feature of this new dinosaur is that it is the oldest Diplodocoid ever found, pushing back the appearance of advanced sauropods by 15 million years. Diplodocoidea is a superfamily of sauropods, including some of the longest animals of all time, including slender giants such as Supersaurus Diplodocus Apatosaurus and ] Amphicoelias
Lingwulong was not nearly as tall as his most famous cousins, the largest identified by the Chinese researchers was about 18 meters long. Like most sauropods, the "amazing dragon" must have gathered in groups and fed on vegetarian food. Since his neck was not as long as other sauropods, scientists believe that Lingwulong grazed on low-soft plants with its cone-like teeth.
He was the earliest member of his evolutionary family (Diplodocoidea), the discovery of the dinosaur in East Asia – who lived at a time when the region was still connected to other continents – will likely force palaeontologists to discover the origin and evolution of sauropods to reassess. Before this dinosaur was identified, the prevailing mindset was that advanced sauropods appeared for the first time in the late Jurassic and spread rapidly over the entire planet. Now it seems that these dinosaurs developed earlier and spread more slowly than previously thought.
Neasacopod fossils were found in North America, Europe, and East Africa, but so far none were older than 160 million years, and none were found in Asia.
"The new discovery challenges conventional biogeographical ideas and suggests that their spread in East Asia was much earlier than expected," the researchers write in the journal Nature Communications . "Moreover, the age of this new taxon indicates that many advanced sauropod lines were formed at least 15 million years earlier than previously thought and reached global distribution, while pangea was still a contiguous land mass."
In China, there are still many unexplored areas that Xu and colleagues hope to investigate in order to further decrypt the pedigree of sauropods.
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