Details of a new species of titanosaur have been revealed by researchers who excavated the bones from a site in central Russia. The first titanosaur ever discovered in the country, it shows unique features never before seen in other sauropod specimens.
The bones were actually unearthed in 2008, and while last year it was reported that they were suspected to be from a new species, the researchers have only now announced that they have found certain unique aspects to the fossil that definitively prove their hunch, and are able to reveal the precise statistics of the giant herbivore. It seems that the beast would have stretched for 20 meters (66 feet) and weighed in at roughly 50 tonnes (55 tons), or equal to around eight African bush elephants.
The dinosaur is thought to have been a titanosaur, a group of sauropod dinosaurs that encompass some of the heaviest animals ever to have walked on land. These include the mighty Argentinosaurus and Alamosaurus, thought to have tipped the scales at around 73 tonnes (80 tons) each. Despite not quite attaining those sizes, the new species stands out from the rest due to some unusual structural elements. The sacral ribs of the creature are arranged into a star shape that converges towards the center, while unusually there are no joints between the vertebras in the neural arch. Neither of these features has been seen in titanosaurs to date.
Living around 100 million years ago, towards the end of the early Cretaceous, the dinosaur would have been trampling around the lush forests that would have been covering much of the land. Growing to such massive sizes would have required an incredible amount of food, and much of their bulk is expected to have been taken up by large stomachs used to ferment the tough cycads on which they would have been feeding.
While the media has been quick to dub the new find "Sibirosaurus", the researchers make note of the fact that they still haven’t even officially described the fossils or species yet, and thus have not given it its Latin name, so it might be a little premature to second guess them at this stage. They have so far managed to reconstruct the base of the tail, or sacrum, along with a shoulder blade, and some of the cervical vertebrae, while the remains of a large foot discovered back in 1995, and that has been in storage ever since, may also belong to the same species.
The plan is to rebuild the fossil skeleton from all the fragment fossil pieces discovered, and then put the resulting exhibit on permanent display, so that members of the public will have free access to the giant creature that once stomped around Siberia.