Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

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

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

Found in Argentina, its fossil is providing important new insights into the evolution of dinosaurs, and how sauropods grew to such colossal sizes. Their distant ancestors were small, agile, two-legged dinosaurs known as prosauropods.

Despite its size, the Ingentia prima paled in comparison to the 64-tonne giants of the Cretaceous period, when giant dinosaurs ruled the Earth 65 million years ago. "It was at least twice as large as the other herbivores of the time". Moreover, scientists do not exclude that "the era of giants" could have started even earlier, as nessesary, the closest relatives of Ingentia prima appeared 215 million years ago. Ingentia prima, which can be translated as "first giant", grew cyclically, having stretches of time with fast growth and similar periods of time when it wouldn't grow at all.

The earlier understanding of dinosaur existence was said to be 180 million years ago, which this discovery dismisses.

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Reconstruction of Ingentia prima from the Late Triassic (205- 210Ma) with a total length 8-10 meters is shown in this handout image of an artist's rendering provided July 9, 2018. "That's the surprise", said Cecilia Apaldetti, a government and San Juan University researcher, according to AFP.

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.

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

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These were "herbivore dinosaurs, quadrupeds, easily recognizable by their very long neck and tail, and from the sauropod group", she added. 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.

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. I. prima grew via a combination of very fast growth spurts and bird-like lungs able to supply large amounts of oxygen and keep an huge body cool, scientists report in Nature Ecology & Evolution. At the end of the Triassic period it was a type of savannah.

Sauropods - the largest land animals to ever appear on Earth - came from humble beginnings.

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