New Dinosaur Species Uncovered: It’s the Oldest-Known Giant Dinosaur

Ingentia prima

Ingentia prima

"As soon as we found it, we realised it was something different".

Fossils of the creature called Ingentia prima, a species of sauropodomorph, suggest that dinosaurs grew in size 30 million years earlier than previously thought.

Scientists in Argentina have discovered the earliest-known "giant" dinosaur, revealing the evolution of gigantism began around 30 million years earlier than previously thought. "It was at least twice as large as the other herbivores of the time". This way of growing was widespread amongst the dinosaurs of that era, but excluding Ingentia prima, no other species reached more than three meters in length while weighting around 1.8 tones. They have named it Ingentia prima which translates to "first giant" in Latin. But dinosaurs weren't always giants - during the earlier Triassic period they were mostly chicken-sized critters, and they didn't really grow to be massive until the Jurassic.

What is really unexpected is that the lessemsaurids achieved their huge bodies independently of the very big sauropods like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus, which did indeed evolve later during the Jurassic.

Reconstruction of Ingentia prima, a dinosaur from the Late Triassic period.

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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.

Cecilia Apaldetti of the University of San Juan said, 'Before this discovery, gigantism was considered to have emerged during the Jurassic period, approximately 180 million years ago, but Ingentia prima lived at the end of the Triassic, between 210 and 205 million years ago'. Analysis showed that I. prima weighed between seven and 10 tons (the largest African elephants weight between six and seven tons), and it already exhibited an elongated neck and long tail, though not almost as pronounced as those seen later. As for the bones, they belonged to the neck, tail, front and back legs.

Like dinosaurs that lived later, it had bird-like air sacs, which may have been needed to keep large animals cool and supply large amounts of oxygen.

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.

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

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