Herd of sauropod dinosaurs become the oldest diplodocoids ever discovered
A newly discovered sauropod species from China has become the oldest of its kind ever to be unearthed. It's changing how we think these dinosaurs evolved, as well as making us rethink how entire continents were linked 174 million years ago.
A relatively unexplored site near the city of Lingwu in northern China has revealed a striking series of dinosaur fossils.
The dinosaurs belong to a group of sauropods known as diplodocoids. Until now it was thought that the lineage was entirely absent from China.
It was believed that by the time these dinosaurs evolved, eastern Asia had already split from the rest of Pangaea, the supercontinent that existed about 280 million years ago. This split isolated those animals that were already on the land mass, preventing the diplodocoids from getting there.
But these fossils show that eastern Asia was not cut off as previously thought and that these dinosaurs may have dispersed into the region long before any isolation occurred.
This has remarkable implications not only for how dinosaurs may have evolved and dispersed during this
Prof Xu Xing, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and lead author of the study published in Nature Communications, says, 'I suspect that when we go back to some old collections we may find some dinosaurs or other animal groups that normally we wouldn't expect to be present in China at this time.
'So this particular discovery will really push us to look at other possibilities.'
The origins of Dippy
The new species of sauropod has been named Lingwulong
Some sauropods reached lengths of 20 or 30
The study, which included Museum scientist Prof Paul Barrett and was supported by the National Geographic Society, has described fossils from multiple individuals, including partial skulls, vertebrae
While Asia was home to its own unique group of
This was thought to be down to how Pangaea was breaking up at the time that these animals were evolving. It has long been believed that eastern Asia became the first notable land mass to fully separate from the rest of the continents when the divide began about 200 million years ago.
Known as the 'East Asian isolation hypothesis', it explained why some groups of animals were only found within China during this period, and why others were absent.
'That hypothesis was supported by many endemic species found in Asia, for
The discovery of L.
Prof Xu says, 'If you have a connection between eastern Asian animals and those on other continents, then the question is how they dispersed. So far we don't have a good answer, but it is very likely that there was a land bridge or something like that connecting eastern Asia to other continents.'
Back to the start
The age of the fossils is also highly significant. As the earliest diplodocoid found so far, it could mean that not only did these dinosaurs cross from one land mass to the
'This type of dinosaur is from the Middle Jurassic and at that
A new era
Over the past few
This particular site near Lingwu, and the surrounding Ningxia
'We hope in the future we can
'I hope that this is a new beginning for a totally new area. Ningxia as a province is kind of blank in China for dinosaur research, so there is lots of