China’s New Heavyweight Contender

The Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in association with the Henan Provincial Geological museum have announced the finding of the remains of another titanosaur, that could well turn out to be the biggest dinosaur yet to be found in Asia.

With so many sediments stocked with dinosaur fossils, there seems to be a new dinosaur discovered every few months in China.  Indeed, this discovery is believed to be of a bigger dinosaur than the one announced back in July 2007, which was heralded as the biggest dinosaur found in Asia at the time.

To read the previous article: Asia’s Heaviest Dinosaur Discovered.

The fossils were excavated from a site between the townships of Santun and Liudian, in Ruyang county, Henan Province.  This part of China is famous for its Cretaceous dinosaur fossils, in Everything Dinosaur’s Ten New Year Predictions we conjectured that China would produce a number of new dinosaur finds, “Chinese Dinosaur Discoveries continue to make the Headlines”.  Not surprising really when the size of the country is considered and the huge palaeontological resources available.

Everything Dinosaur New Year Predictions: New Year Predictions 2008.

The well preserved fossils consist of several ribs and vertebrae including the sacrum.  The sacrum is the part of the vertebral column that sits over the hip area, preliminary study indicates that this large titanosaur had a very deep body cavity and with an estimated length of nearly 20 metres, it may well be the heaviest dinosaur found in China to date.

Initially, the fossils were speculatively dated to the Cenozoic era, putting this titanosaur happily roaming around after the dinosaur mass extinction.  Had this been the case the scientific world would really have been shaken up.  The deposit from which the fossil bones were removed had been dated to the Age of Mammals, the excavation hampered in part by locals digging up what they referred to as “dragon bones”.  Now scientists are confident that these fossils represent a genus of long-necked dinosaur that lived between 100 to 85 million years ago.

Titanosaurs were the last sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), to evolve and are mostly known from the Southern Hemisphere and Gondwanaland.  Many of these animals had bizarre body armour running down their backs and flanks consisting of scutes and plates.  It is not known whether this new titanosaur was armoured, the fossils although well preserved, represent only a small part of the total skeleton and no scutes have been reported.  Armour on titanosaurs seems a little pointless, many of these animals were so large as adults that they would have been impervious to attack.  It would have to be a pretty desperate theropod (or possibly group of theropods) to take on a herd of 20 Tonne leviathans.

There are not too many models of titanosaurs around, not when compared to the the plethora of models representing Diplodocoidea et al.

Saltasaurus has been modelled, this was a medium-sized Cretaceous titanosaur from South America.

To view Saltasaurus and other dinosaur models: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.

This newly discovered titanosaur may well have been a member of the Huanghetitanidae (means yellow river titans).  This family, part of the dinosaur family tree classification of the suborder Sauropoda, are represented by one genus the Huanghetitans.  They were huge herbivores. The titanosaur fossil remains, found in July 2007 that were previously thought to be the biggest ever Chinese dinosaur until this new find, may represent a close relative, perhaps two species of the same genus.

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