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article image50-foot 'dragon dinosaur' fossils found in China

By Sravanth Verma     Jan 31, 2015 in World
Paleontologists in China have discovered that a skeleton unearthed in 2006 is a previously unknown species, and have called the 50-foot specimen, "dragon" dinosaur.
The species has been named Qijianglong guokr, or the "dragon of Qijiang." The skeleton was found in a fish pond in Qijiang city, Chongqing province, while farmers were digging the soil. The species roamed China 160 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period.
Lida Xing, part of the University of Alberta research team that made the discovery, told CNN the name came about because the farmers thought the skeleton resembled the shape of mythical Chinese dragons.
"We found the dinosaur's huge vertebrae with the skull and the tail, but couldn't find any bones from the hands or the legs. So the locals began to say the long body looked just like a dragon from ancient Chinese stories," said Xing.
The report was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, titled "A new sauropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China and the diversity, distribution, and relationships of mamenchisaurids." The new species belongs to the group mamenchisaurids, known for extremely long necks reaching upto half their body length.
Sauropods, the large, long-necked dinosaurs — the most well-known of which is probably the Aptosaur of Jurassic Park — usually had necks about one-third their body length. Other well-known Saurpoda genera include Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, and immense titanosaurs, such as the recently found Dreadnoughtus which might have weighed as much as 60 tons.
"Qijianglong is a cool animal. If you imagine a big animal that is half neck, you can see that evolution can do quite extraordinary things," Tetsuto Miyashita, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, said. he added, "I wonder if the ancient Chinese stumbled upon a skeleton of a long-necked dinosaur like Qijianglong and pictured that mythical creature." There is a record dating from 300 BC, of the discovery of dragon bones in Sichuan, which Quijang is a province of.
"Nowhere else we can find dinosaurs with longer necks than those in China. The new dinosaur tells us that these extreme species thrived in isolation from the rest of the world," Miyashita said. The team postulates that these extremely long-necked dinosaurs developed in isolation when this region may have been cut off from the rest of the world by a large ocean, When the landmasses connected again, Qijianglong might have lost out in the evolutionary battle when other species moved in.
The skeleton is currently housed in a museum in Qijiang, and will be moved to a new dinosaur museum in Qijiang, once it is built.
More about Paleontology, qijianglong, chinese fossils
 
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