Giant dinosaur bones get archaeologists rethinking Triassic period

Christopher Davidson
July 11, 2018

Ingentia prima was an early member of a dinosaur group called sauropods, a forerunner of the largest land animals that are known to have walked the Earth, including the Patagonian behemoths Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus and Patagotitan.

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.

With this discovery, researchers are now rethinking the evolution of dinosaurs, as they previously believed giant dinosaurs didn't exist until 25 million years later.

"This new discovery was a pleasant surprise, and I think it's one of the most important dinosaur finds of the last few years", Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who wasn't involved in the study, told Live Science.

To turn into towering beasts, it was believed the development of straight legs for support and continuous, rapid growth were essential.

Analysis showed that I. prima weighed between seven and 10 tonnes (the largest African elephants weight between six and seven tonnes), and it already exhibited an elongated neck and long tail, though not almost as pronounced as those seen later.

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Dr Apaldetti said the climate would have been warm, with periodic monsoons. producing an African savannah style landscape, with plenty of shrubs on which Ingentia prima would feed.

For dinosaurs, "gigantism" was a survival tool, with herbivores using their huge size to defend against predators.

The fossil was found in the San Juan Province, in north-west Argentina, during a field trip.

Like their notorious descendants, they also had elongated necks and tails. These repiratory structures may have been necessary to keep such large animals cool. Later sauropodomorphs would grow at a steady rate.

"Their expansion in the Late Triassic is evident from the appearance of many small, agile two legged types recorded throughout the world", she said.

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