A new dinosaur characterized using fossil remains from northwestern China was among the largest creatures ever to live on Earth, paleontologists say.
A team led by University of Pennsylvania paleontologists reports the species, a plant-eating sauropod named Yongjinglong datangi, roamed during the Early Cretaceous period more than 100 million years ago and belonged to a group known as Titanosauria.
The individual specimen discovered, at 50 feet to 60 feet long, was a medium-sized Titanosaur but evidence points to it being a juvenile and adults may have been larger, the university reported Thursday.
Its features suggest Yongjinglong is among the most evolutionarily advanced of the Titanosaurs yet discovered in Asia, researchers said.
The fossil was found in the southeast of China's Gansu Province, close to where two other Titanosaurs from the same period, Huanghetitan liujiaxiaensis and Daxiatitan binglingi, were discovered within the last decade.
"As recently as 1997 only a handful of dinosaurs were known from Gansu," Penn researcher Peter Dodson said. "Now it's one of the leading areas of China. This dinosaur is one more of the treasures of Gansu."
"Based on U.S. fossils, it was once thought that sauropods dominated herbivorous dinosaur fauna during the Jurassic but became almost extinct during the Cretaceous," he said. "We now realize that, in other parts of the world, particularly in South America and Asia, sauropod dinosaurs continued to flourish in the Cretaceous, so the thought that they were minor components is no longer a tenable view."