Sauropod dinosaurs were massive, long-necked, long-tailed creatures that have long been regarded as the largest land animals ever to have lived. They reached their most diverse in the Late Jurassic, when the break-up of the supercontinent of Pangea facilitated the splitting of the group into several regional subgroups, each of which underwent an evolutionary radiation in their local environment.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications on 24 July 2018, Xing Xu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Paul Upchurch of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, Philip Mannion of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, Paul Barrett of the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, Omar Regalado-Fernandez, also of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, Jinyou Mo of the Natural History Museum of Guangxi, Jinfu Ma of the Lingwu National Geopark Administration, and Hongan Liu of the Lingwu Historic Relic Administration, describe a new species of Diplodocoid Sauropod Dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwest China.
The new species is named Lingwulong shenqi, where 'Lingwulong' means 'Drangon of Lingwu', in reference to the Lingwu National Geopark, where the specimen from which it is described was found, and 'shenqi' means 'amazing'. Lingwulong shenqi is described from a partial skull and partial skeleton from the Middle Jurassic Yanan Formation; these were recovered from the same location, and probably come from the same individual, though this cannot be stated with absolute confidence. A number of other partial skeletons from the same location also thought to belong to the same species.
Skeletal reconstruction and exemplar skeletal remains of Lingwulong shenqi. Silhouette showing preserved elements (a); middle cervical vertebra in left lateral (b) and anterior (c) views; anterior dorsal vertebra in left lateral (d) and anterior (e) views; posterior dorsal vertebra in lateral view (f); sacrum and ilium in left lateral view (g); anterior caudal vertebra in left lateral (h) and anterior (i) views; right scapulocoracoid in lateral view (j); right humerus in anterior view (k); left pubis in lateral view (l); right ischium in lateral (m) views; right femur in posterior view (n); and right tibia in lateral view (o). Abbreviations: ap, ambiens process; ar, acromial ridge; ip, iliac peduncle; naf, notch anterior to glenoid; np, neural spine; podl, postzygodiapophyseal lamina; ppr, prezygapophyseal process ridge; prp, prezygapophysis; pvf, posteroventral fossa; slf, shallow lateral fossa; spol, spinopostzygapophyseal lamina; sprl, spinoprezygapophyseal lamina; wls, wing-like structure. Scale bars are100 cm for (a) and 5 cm for (b)–(o). Xu et al. (2018).
Lingwulong shenqi has a number of features which lead Xu et al. to conclude that it should unequivocally be placed within the Diplodocoidea, a group previously thought to have been excluded from East Asia by the break-up of Pangea. The presence of a Diplodocoid in this area implies that (1) either the supercontinent did not break up as soon as is currently thought, a timeline based upon numerous lines of evidence and considered to be highly robust, or that Diplodocoids, and by extension Neosuaropods (the group that includes Diplodocoids and Titanosaurs) first appeared at least 15 million years earlier than previously supposed.
Paleogeographic maps showing the formation and disappearance of an epicontinental seaway between Europe and Central Asia during the Middle Jurassic through Early Cretaceous. (a) Middle Jurassic, 170 million years ago; (b) Late Jurassic, 160 million years ago; (c) Early Cretaceous, 138 million years ago. Green indicates land, light blue shallow sea, and deep blue ocean. Abbreviations: R, Russian Platform Sea; T, Turgai Sea. Xu et al. (2018).
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