Sarmientosaurus musacchioi is a newly-discovered dinosaur which carried around a downward-facing head, making the animal look like a prehistoric version of the perpetually sad donkey, Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. The species lived in Argentina roughly 95 million years ago.
A member of the Titanosaur family, this newly-discovered species exhibited many of the same qualities as its cousins, but likely possessed some abilities unknown to other members of that group.
A nearly-complete skull and neck fossils were unearthed in Patagonia, Argentina. Careful analysis of the artifact revealed the skull came from a previously-unknown species of dinosaur. Researchers imaged the skull using a computerized tomography (CT) scanner.
"Discoveries like Sarmientosaurus happen once in a lifetime. That's why we studied the fossils so thoroughly, to learn as much about this amazing animal as we could," said Rubén Martínez of the Laboratorio de Paleovertebrados in Argentina.
Titanosaurs were a type of sauropods, or herbivores noted for their long necks. The largest of these dinosaurs were the size of sperm whales, while the smallest were only as large as a cow.
Like other Titanosaurs, S. musacchioi possessed a small brain relative to its body size. Although not an intelligent animal, the creatures appear to have exhibited superb sensory skills. Large eyes may have provided the animals with excellent vision, and low-frequency sounds may have been easily picked up by the auditory system of musacchioi. This would have allowed the creatures to easily hear sounds coming from the air, as the animal forged for plants.
The structure of the inner ear - particularly systems designed to determine balance - suggest the creatures likely carried the heads down, facing toward the ground. This posture would have allowed the animals to graze for the low-lying plants which made up much of its diet.
Skulls of Titanosaurs are exceedingly rare. More than 60 species have been identified by paleontologists, but researchers have found intact skulls of just four species.
The dinosaur derives its name in honor of the town of Sarmiento, where the discovery was made, as well as the late paleontologist Eduardo Musacchio.
Discovery of the newly-discovered dinosaur and analysis of the unearthed skull is profiled in the journal PLOS ONE.