Palaeontologists in Argentina have just announced the discovery of Ingentia prima, a previously unknown species of dinosaur that roamed the Earth some 205 million years ago.
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 hitherto unknown counterparts inhabited what is now Argentina.
The find was revealed on the 9th of July 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
'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,' confirmed Cecilia Apaldetti, researcher at the University of San Juan and head of the excavation team, to Agence France-Presse.
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
'These were four-legged herbivores belonging to the sauropod group, easily recognisable by their long necks and huge tails,' explained Apaldetti. Aside from their exceptional physical characteristics, the age of this animal is another point of great interest to palaeontologists.
'Ingentia prima lived towards the end of the Triassic period, probably around 205 million years ago,' echoed Ricky Martinez, one of the co-organisers of the excavation from the University of San Juan. This constitutes a surprising age for a dinosaur of this size. '[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,' the specialist confirmed.
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.