Three dinosaur fossils have been identified by researchers in Northwest China – with two of them discovered to be brand new species.
The researchers, led by Xiaolin Wang of Chinese Academy of Sciences, analysed spinal vertebrae and rib structure fossils discovered near Turpan-Hami Basin in Xinjiang, China, and found that they belonged to sauropods that lived during the Early Cretaceous between 130-120 million years ago.
These fossils represent some of the first vertebrates uncovered in the region, besides pterosaurs, and were the first dinosaurs discovered in the Turpan-Hami Basin, according to the paper, published in Nature.
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The first fossil was a new species that likely had a long neck and was part of a sauropod family called Euhelopodidae, which has so far only been found in East Asia. They named the dinosaur Silutitan sinensis, and estimated it was about 20 metres long.
The second fossil was another new species, that the researchers named Hamititan xinjiangensis. The fossil consisted of seven vertebrae from the tail, which had specific shapes and ridges that suggested it belonged to the Titanosaur family. The team estimated Hamititan xinjiangensis was around 17 metres long.
The last specimen had four vertebrae and some rib fragments, and the analysis showed it was probably a Somphospondylan sauropod, a group of dinosaurs that lived from the late Jurassic period to the late Cretaceous period.
The findings shed new light on the variety of sauropods that once existed in China.
Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
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