Biology / Science

The first giant

If you’re keeping up with your dinosaur news, you’ve probably heard about Ingentia prima already: the earliest known giant dinosaur, a herbivorous sauropodomorph that lived in the Triassic Period. It’s not quite the quintessential sauropod you might be conjuring up in your imagination (long live Brontosaurus), with a shorter neck and less pillar-like legs, but you can see the relationship from the morphology.

The bones were found in Argentina, and the reconstruction is based on two specimens: the type specimen (the one which is used as a reference for all other specimens) and another. It’s amazing what they’ve managed to infer from what we have, if you look at the skeleton drawn out in the image below — the red parts are the type specimen, the orange parts appear in both the type specimen and the other skeleton, and the yellow parts are from the other skeleton alone.

From that, scientists have revealed a ton of information: Ingentia prima‘s eating habits, of course, but also the fact that it had air-filled spaces in its skeleton (yes, like a bird) which allowed it to grow so large while also staying cool and not, you know, collapsing under its own enormous weight.

We have plenty of big dinosaurs, but none of the giants came earlier than this. Eat your heart out, T-rex!

2 thoughts on “The first giant

  1. But all the white stuff they’re just extrapolating, aren’t they? how do we know it doesn’t have a much longer neck (or did the almost-everyone-has-7-vertebrae thing apply already), how do we know it has those sorts of hips?

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    • I’m tempted to do a whole follow-up post on this! But basically it’s through comparative anatomy. Some things are highly conserved, so you know what will be connected to the bones you have, and from the shapes of what you have you know the shape of what’s connected to them, etc. The position you find the bones in also helps, if the skeleton remained articulated when it fossilised — even if parts have been damaged or worn away, you know where things lie in relation to each other.

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