The Earliest Giant Dinosaur Discovered in Argentina

Federico Mansilla
Julio 12, 2018

It used to be thought that such giant dinosaurs thrived in the Jurassic Period.

Introducing Ingentia prima, a large, four-legged, long-necked dinosaur that lived a whopping 47 million years before giants like Diplodocus and Brontosaurus shook the Earth. But the lessemsaurids tell us that at least some dinosaurs were able to attain giant sizes during the latest part of the Triassic, before the extinction. It wasn't as large, weighing about 10 tonnes.

Large size, scientists believe they began to be achieved only in the middle and at the end of the Jurassic period, about 180-155 million years ago, when the first neosauropods, including Diplodocus, argentinosaurus and all of the largest dinosaurs of that era.

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. However, the earliest examples of this group were small, bipedal creatures. 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.

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

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.

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But the dinosaur's size isn't the only feature that impressed paleontologists.

"Gigantism is an evolutionary survival strategy, especially for herbivorous animals, because size is a form of defense against predators", Apaldetti said.

The specimen was found alongside the remains of three individuals belonging to the already known species Lessemsaurus sauropoides.

The fossil was discovered from the northwest of Argentina during a field trip. The partial fossil, found buried within the southern outcrops of the Quebrada del Barro Formation in northwestern Argentina, consists of several neck vertebrae, a shoulder bone, and several bones from its legs and tail.

Like their notorious descendants, they also had elongated necks and tails.

Researchers also reported the creature featured a bird-like cervical sac and a neck with characteristics that allowed the oversized animal to stay cool.

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