A team of paleontologists discovered a new “amazing dragon” dinosaur species called Lingwulong shenqi using 10 partial skeletons that were obtained from four separate dig locations in China. The dinosaur is a part of the long-necked sauropod group and diplodocid family. In particular, it appears to be a dicraeosaurid, which is a small clade of sauropods that have shorter necks and sharp spines protruding from their vertebrae.
Previous research revealed that neosauropods thrived during the Late Jurassic period between 163 million and 145 million years ago. However, Lingwulong fossils date to 174 million years ago, which suggests that neosauropods existed on Pangea earlier, in the Middle Jurassic.
“The discovery of Lingwulong pushes back the origination times of many of the groups of sauropod dinosaurs that we think of as most iconic, and challenges many conventional ideas about the early biogeographical history of dinosaurs,” said Philip Mannion, a study author and paleontologist at Imperial College London.
But if Lingwulong is a diplodocid as researchers suspect, it will be the first one discovered in East Asia, and this surprise was inspiration for the dinosaur’s name.
“Lingwu, after the region where the specimens were found; long, the Mandarin Chinese for ‘dragon’; and shenqi, the Mandarin Chinese for ‘amazing’, reflecting the unexpected discovery of a dicraeosaurid in the Middle Jurassic of China,” the paper read, calling it the “amazing dragon of Lingwu.”
While it’s often tough to determine dinosaur appearance and behavior from fossils, Mannion has some ideas.
“It wouldn’t have been too dissimilar to other sauropods, although the group Lingwulong belonged to had slightly shorter necks than other sauropods,” he said. He also noted they ranged from 35 to 55 feet (11 to 17 meters) long. “They probably moved around fairly slowly most of the time, in small herds, and ate quite a lot.”
The findings were published in Nature Communications.