Fossils of ‘first giant’ dinosaur uncovered in Argentina (PHOTOS)

Fossils of ‘first giant’ dinosaur uncovered in Argentina (PHOTOS)
Giant dinosaurs lived on Earth almost 30 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of paleontologists in Argentina, who unearthed fossils of the earliest-known giant dinosaur.

The remains of a 200-million-year old species, baptized Ingenia prima, was discovered in the Balde de Leyes dig site in San Juan province, 1,100km (680 miles) west of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

Before this discovery, it was considered that gigantism had emerged during the Jurassic period, about 180 million years ago, but Ingentia prima lived at the end of the Triassic, between 210 and 205 million years ago,” lead researcher Dr Cecilia Apaldetti of Universidad Nacional de San Juan in Argentina said.

The new species has been named Ingentia prima, meaning 'first giant' in Latin.

Researchers believe that the herbivore quadruped dinosaurs, distinguished by their very long neck and tail, had a body mass of about 10 tons – approximately the weight of two or three elephants.

Excavators uncovered several vertebrae from the neck and tail as well as fore and hind leg bones. The species “exhibits a growth strategy that was unknown until now and indicates that gigantism originated much earlier than was thought,” Apaldetti said.

Gigantism proved a successful evolutionary survival strategy, especially for herbivorous animals, because size is a form of defense against predators. Until now, it was believed it emerged with the appearance of the first sauropods in the Jurassic period.

The Balde de Leyes site, which spans several thousand acres, was first discovered in 2001 and has produced hundreds of specimens. The latest findings published in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution, are leading paleontologists to rethink the history and rise of these enormous creatures.

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