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Long-Necked Dinosaur Discovered in China

Long-Necked Dinosaur

Image credit: Lida Xing, via University of Alberta. Artist’s impression of Qijanglong

A group of paleontologists of the University of Alberta has found a species of long-necked, or sauropod, dinosaur from a skeleton, which was unknown before. The dinosaur was discovered in China nearly ten years. The species has been named as Qijanglong, meaning “dragon of Qijang” in Chinese.

In 2006, a group of construction workers were digging near Qijang, a southern city in China, happened to find an amazing series of large bones which had been buried within the ground. After more excavation, it was revealed that the bones were the neck vertebrae of a super long-necked dinosaur. To the surprise, the neck was still attached to the head. It is rare to see the head and neck of dinosaurs to remain in such position, because it is easy for the tiny heads to be separated after the animal dies.

From the further examination of the remains, it showed that being15 meters long, the dinosaur would have been roamed the region, where is now China some 160 million years ago during the period of the Late Jurassic.

As kind of sauropod dinosaur, Qijanglong were large herbivores with four legs and long neck. They used to live on Earth for nearly 100 million years, starting from the Lower Jurassic to the Upper Cretaceous, so they were regarded as one of the most long-lived classes of dinosaurs. In addition, sauropods were widespread geographically, because they had been found almost in every continent except Antarctica.

Falling into the catalogue of dinosaurs known as mamenchisaurids, Qijanglong had extremely long necks, in some cases; they would measure half the length of their body, which made them distinguished from other sauropods. Generally the most sauropods had necks just measuring one-third of their body length.

Although people are wondering how such animals were able to support their super long necks, the secret is closely related to the composition of their neck vertebrae, because they were full of air. It meant that even though they were incredibly long, the necks weren’t that heavy as it was thought. However, while they might be comparatively light, they still had some difficulty in maneuvering owing to their limited flexibility. As each vertebra was linked with the next through an interlocking joint, it showed that it was quite overall stiff with limited sideways movement.

Despite the fact that sauropods were widely spread all over the world, mamenchisaurids have been only discovered in Asia. It is interesting that the obvious diversity of mamenchisaurids demonstrates their impressive differences among members of this particular group found in different continents.

According to Tetsuto Miyashita, the lead researcher of this project, from the example of Qijanglong, it is revealed that long-necked dinosaurs were diversified in the special ways in Asia during Jurassic times. It was kind of unique event happening in that continent. Only in China, were such dinosaurs with longer necks discovered. The new dinosaur does illustrate that such rare species used to be thrived in isolation from the rest of the world.

Source: University of Alberta and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology