Most massive ever dinosaur species discovered in Antarctica

December 11th, 2007 - 12:51 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, December 11 (ANI): Researchers have discovered a new genus and species of dinosaur in Antarctica, which they say belongs to the Early Jurassic period.

They call this massive plant-eating primitive sauropodomorph Glacialisaurus hammeri, who lived about 190 million years ago.

The determination of the new dinosaur find is based on partial foot, leg and ankle bones found on Mt. Kirkpatrick near the Beardmore Glacier in Antarctica at an elevation of more than 13,000 feet.

The fossils were painstakingly removed from the ice and rock using jackhammers, rock saws and chisels under extremely difficult conditions over the course of two field seasons, said Nathan Smith, a graduate student at The Field Museum.

They are important because they help to establish that primitive sauropodomorph dinosaurs were more broadly distributed than previously thought, and that they coexisted with their cousins, the true sauropods, he added.

A report about the find, published in the Acta Palaeontologica Poloncica, suggests that sauropodomorph dinosaurs were the largest animals to ever walk the earth.

The report further states that they were long-necked herbivores and included Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. Their sister group is the theropods, which include Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, and modern birds.

Glacialisaurus hammeri, named after Professor William Hammer of Augustana College who led the two field trips to Antarctica that uncovered the fossils, was about 20 to 25 feet long and weighed about four to six tons.

Glacialisaurus belongs to the sauropodomorph family Massopsondylidae, which may represent a secondary radiation of basal sauropodomorphs during the Early Jurassic.

The new discovery, according to the report, shows that sauropodomorphs were widely distributed in the Early Jurassic. It also shows that these dinosaurs not only existed in China, South Africa, South America and North America but in Antarctica also.

This was probably due to the fact that major connections between the continents still existed at that time, and because climates were more equitable across latitudes than they are today, Smith said.

The discovery of Glacialisaurus hammeri further suggests that primitive sauropodomorphs probably coexisted with true sauropods for an extended period of time.

According to the reports authors, the recent discovery of a possible sauropod at roughly the same location in Antarctica lends additional evidence to the theory that the earliest sauropods coexisted with their basal sauropodomorph cousins, including Glacialisaurus hammeri, during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. (ANI)

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