Fossil of New Titanosaur Discovered in Northwestern China

Posted on January 29, 2014

A fossil of a new sauropod, Yongjinglong datangi, has been discovered in northwestern China by University of Pennsylvania paleontologists. The dinosaur roamed the Earth over 100 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period. Scientists estimate the dinosaur was 50 to 60 feet long. The researchers say evidence indicates the fossils were from a juvenile so adults may have been even larger. The research was published here in PLoS One.

Doctoral student Liguo Li and professor Peter Dodson, who have affiliations in both the School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Animal Biology and the School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Earth and Environmental Science, led the research. They partnered with Hailu You, a former student of Dodson's, who now works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, and Daqing Li of the Gansu Geological Museum in Lanzhou, China.

The dinosaur remains found include three teeth, eight vertebrae, the left shoulder blade, and the right radius and ulna. The anatomical features of the bones resemble Euhelopus zdanskyi, another Titanosaur that was discovered by paleontologists in China in 1929. However, the team was able to identify a number of unique characteristics in their fossil find.

Li said in a statement, "The shoulder blade was very long, nearly 2 meters, with sides that were nearly parallel, unlike many other Titanosaurs whose scapulae bow outward."

The dinosaur's vertebrae had large cavities in the interior. The research team believes the cavities provided space for air sacs in the dinosaur's body.

Dodson says, "These spaces are unusually large in this species. It's believed that dinosaurs, like birds, had air sacs in their trunk, abdominal cavity and neck as a way of lightening the body."

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