Fossils suggest some early sauropod relatives grew massive using a previously unknown method
Jorge A. González
For sauropods — the largest animals known to have walked on Earth — there may have been more than one way to get gigantic.
Most early relatives of the herbivorous dinosaurs have a suite of features once thought to be the essential blueprint for gigantism, such as sturdy pillarlike legs, elongated necks and forelimbs, and bones that grew continuously rather than in seasonal spurts. But an analysis of fossils of sauropodomorphs — a group that includes sauropods and some ancestors and similarly shaped relatives — suggests that some of the dinos may have had a different strategy for becoming behemoths, researchers report online July 9 in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Paleontologist Cecilia Apaldetti of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan in Argentina and colleagues examined four sauropodomorphs, including one newly identified species that the team dubbed Ingentia prima