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Palaeontologists Discover Fossils Of First Giant Dinosaur In Argentina

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Ingentia prima, which lived 210 million years ago during the Triassic Period, was an early member of the dinosaur group, sauropods. How was it different from its later relatives? Illustration shows sauropod dinosaurs.   ( Wikimedia Commons )

Paleontologists discovered fossils of the earliest known giant dinosaur in Argentina. The creature was a plant eater with a long tail and medium-length neck.

The First Giant

Scientists called the creature Ingentia prima, which means "the first giant" given its size and traits related to gigantism. It measured up to 33 feet and weighed about 10 tons when it walked the Earth 210 million years ago during the Triassic period.

Ingentia And Later Sauropods

The dinosaur was an early member of the dinosaur group called sauropods, which later included some of the biggest terrestrial creatures that ever lived including the Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus, and Patagotitan.

Ingentia, however, is different from its later relatives as it did not have pillar-like legs. Its neck was also shorter than the later sauropods, which are known for their extraordinarily long necks relative to their body length.

Growth

Ingentia's bones suggest that the animal grew seasonally instead of continuously but an even higher rate. Later giant dinosaurs are known to grow in an accelerated but continuous manner.

"Members of this clade attained large body size while maintaining a plesiomorphic cyclical growth pattern, displaying many features of the body plan of basal sauropodomorphs and lacking most anatomical traits previously regarded as adaptations to gigantism," study researcher Cecilia Apaldetti, of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan in Argentina, and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in July.

Other Characteristics

Apaldetti and colleagues also discovered traits that have likely helped the creature thrive despite its massive size.

Ingentia had been found to have a bird-like respiratory system, which is related to the development of air sacs inside its body that provided the dinosaur with large reserves of oxygenated air and kept it gigantic body cool.

Researchers think that this dinosaur species likely moved around as a group and would have died together.

Apaldetti and colleagues reported their findings in a study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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