Their discovery has taken them back millions of years to a time when the owner of this giant, 200-million-year-old skeleton and its unknown counterparts inhabited what is now Argentina.
The find was revealed by the National University of La Matanza in Buenos Aires. Argentine researchers have since published an article in the scientific journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution that contextualises their discovery and details its unusual characteristics.
The excavation was carried out at Balde de Leyes, a fossiliferous site in the province of San Juan, around 620 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires. Palaeontologists dug up several vertebrae from the neck and tail of the dinosaur, as well as bones from the feet of the animal recently christened Ingentia prima.
An unprecedented discovery
Cecilia Apaldetti, a researcher at the University of San Juan and head of the excavation team, confirmed to Agence France-Presse:
As soon as we found it, we realised that this was something different, we had found the very first giant dinosaur. It was a huge surprise
These bones show evidence of cyclical and seasonal growth patterns, differentiating them from other known dinosaurs. Their defining characteristic? A lightweight skeleton with multiple cavities, which would have been conducive to rapid growth.
This young Argentine dinosaur was probably around seven metres in size, while others of the same species could easily have reached over ten metres and weighed ten tonnes, say the experts. Thanks to these bones, palaeontologists have also been able to speculate about what this unusual animal might have looked like.
A journey into the past
Aside from their exceptional physical characteristics, the age of this animal is another point of great interest to palaeontologists. Ricky Martinez, one of the co-organisers of the excavation from the University of San Juan stated:
Ingentia prima lived towards the end of the Triassic period, probably around 205 million years ago, This [species] shows signs of a growth pattern that was previously unheard of, which tells us that giant dinosaurs actually appeared much earlier than we thought.
Before this discovery, the arrival of giant dinosaurs was not thought to have come about until the Jurassic period, around 180 million years ago. This breakthrough gives us a much clearer picture of these colossal creatures that populated the Earth millennia before us.