Fossil of new dinosaur species discovered in Argentina

Ingentia prima

Now, the discovery of Ingentia prima - a member of the Lessemsaurid group of dinosaurs and an ancestor of sauropods - shows that some dinosaurs had acquired several key characteristics during the Late Triassic that paved the way toward gigantism.

Dr Apaldetti said: 'Until now it was believed the first giants to inhabit the Earth originated during the Jurassic - about 180 million years ago.

Giant dinosaurs lived on Earth nearly 30 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of paleontologists in Argentina, who unearthed fossils of the earliest-known giant dinosaur. Until now, it was believed it emerged with the appearance of the first sauropods in the Jurassic period.

This period was a pivotal stage in the history of dinosaurs, but the fossil record is so incomplete it obscures details of this crucial evolutionary change.

They had long necks and tails and relatively small skulls and brains.

"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.

Ingentia Prima would have lived in what is now Argentina, but was then the southeast corner of the supercontinent Pangaea.

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

I. prima was also found alongside three specimens of an already known species called Lessemsaurus sauropoides. It was discovered in the Balde de Leyes dig site in San Juan province, 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) west of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

The remains included shoulder blades, cervical vertebrae and bones from the forelimbs, feet and skull of the four dinosaurs. These repiratory structures may have been necessary to keep such large animals cool.

The dinosaur's bone fragments displayed cyclical and seasonal growth, with a different kind of tissue to other sauropods, which allowed it to grow very quickly. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes some of the largest land animals ever known to have existed.

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