A new dinosaur species that roamed Argentina over 110 million-years-ago has been discovered by a team of Spanish and Argentinian palaeontologists, the National University of La Matanza announced on Friday (02/11/18).
The remains of three separate animals come from species belonging to the herbivorous sauropod-group, which also contains the Diplodocus and Brontosaurus species, which has been named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis.
The remains belonged to an adult of around 12 meters (39 feet) in length, and two minors of around six to seven meters.
Jose Luis Carballido, a researcher at the Egidio Feruglio museum and the national council of scientific investigations, described the find: “We found most of the cranial bones: the snout, the jaws, a lot of teeth, also the bones that define the eye sockets for example and, in that way, we were able to create an almost complete reconstruction.”
“Not only is this the discovery of a new species in an area where you wouldn’t expect to find fossils, but the skull is almost complete.”
The area in which the specimens were found is somewhat unusual as it would have been mostly desert with sporadic lakes and water bodies at the time the animals lived. Fossilisation most commonly occurs in areas with little erosion and a greater chance of rapid burial such as river valleys and in sediments deposited by floods.
The palaeontologists, who believe that the dinosaurs had been travelling in a group when they died, also found parts of a neck, back and tail from the same species.
“This discovery of an adult and two juveniles also signifies the first record of a group displacement among the rebbachisaurus dinosaurs,” said study lead author Jose Ignacio Canudo of Zaragoza University.
Sauropods were herbivorous quadrupeds which could grow to enormous sizes up to 34 metres in length. One example of a Sauropod species, Argentinosaurus, could have weighed up to 120 tonnes. As such they are believed to be the largest creatures that ever existed on land.
Recent research conducted at Leeds University has attempted to discover the secrets of a Sauropods diet and thus how they could grow to such tremendous sizes.
The team, led by Dr Fiona Gill grew planets that dinosaurs would have fed on in atmospheric conditions that replicate those found on Earth 150-million-years-ago.
Plants like horsetail and ginkgo were grown under high levels of carbon dioxide mimicking atmospheric conditions similar to when sauropod dinosaurs would have been widespread.
An artificial fermentation system was used to simulate digestion of the plant leaves in the sauropods’ stomachs, allowing the researchers to determine the leaves’ nutritional value. The findings, published in Palaeontology, showed many of the plants had significantly higher energy and nutrient levels than previously believed.
This finding suggests that Sauropods would have needed to eat much less per day and the ecosystem could potentially have supported a significantly higher dinosaur population.
Dr Gill said: “The climate was very different in the Mesozoic era – when the huge brachiosaurus and diplodocus lived – with possibly much higher carbon dioxide levels. There has been the assumption that as plants grow faster and/or bigger under higher CO2 levels, their nutritional value decreases. Our results show this isn’t the case for all plant species.
“The large body size of sauropods at that time would suggest they needed huge quantities of energy to sustain them. When the available food source has higher nutrient and energy levels it means less food needs to be consumed to provide sufficient energy, which in turn can affect population size and density.
“Our research doesn’t give the whole picture of dinosaur diet or cover the breadth of the plants that existed at this time, but a clearer understanding of how the dinosaurs ate can help scientists understand how they lived.”
“The exciting thing about our approach to growing plants in prehistoric atmospheric conditions is that it can be used to simulate other ecosystems and diets of other ancient megaherbivores, such as Miocene mammals – the ancestors of many modern mammals.”