Study Provides New Evidence of Sauropod Dinosaur Origin and Distribution

Friday, July 27, 2018

An artist's impression of Lingwulong shenqi. Image credit: Zhang Zongda.

After studying a set of fossils, Chinese paleontologists have identified that they belong to a dinosaur species which was previously not believed to have existed in East Asia, challenging previous ideas about how this species originated and spread.

Paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have confirmed the fossils belong to a dinosaur species named Lingwulong shenqi from the genus Diplodocus. The fossils, comprised seven to ten partial skeletons ranging from juveniles to adults, were first discovered in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in 2004.

They found that these dinosaurs were widely distributed in East Asia, a part of the supercontinent Pangaea, which began to break apart about 175 million years ago.

However, it was previously believed that that species had not spread to East Asia, which became an isolated island separated from the supercontinent about 164 million to 158 million years ago.

Diplodocus is one group of the sauropod dinosaurs, which were gigantic long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs that dominated many animals during Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods.

It was also previously believed that the continental breakup had affected the evolution of the sauropod dinosaurs, producing endemic dinosaurs in East Asia during the Middle Jurassic, about 174 to 164 million years ago.

However, according to the new study, these dinosaurs had already evolved and achieved a global distribution when the supercontinent was still a coherent landmass.

The study, led by Xu Xing, a paleontologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was published Monday in the journal Nature Communications. (Xinhua)