A new genus and species of titanosauriform sauropod dinosaur with an unusual tail has been identified from a partial skeleton found in northeastern China.
The newly-identified dinosaur species existed during the Barremian age of the Early Cretaceous epoch, about 125 million years ago.
Scientifically named Ruixinia zhangi, the ancient creature had a stick-like tail and an estimated length of about 12 m (39 feet).
It belonged to the Titanosauriformes, a conspicuous and diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs.
These dinosaurs inhabited almost all land masses during Cretaceous times and contained more than 50 described species.
“Titanosauriformes is a large clade of sauropod dinosaurs whose members were present and common in most Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems,” said Dr. Jinyou Mo from the Natural History Museum of Guangxi and colleagues.
“Although the number of named Cretaceous titanosauriforms has dramatically increased from Asia in recent year, most of them are represented by fragmentary material, with the caudal vertebral series being especially poorly known.”
“The new find increases the diversity of early-branching titanosauriforms in China and highlights the tail morphological diversity within this clade.”
The well-preserved partial skeleton of Ruixinia zhangi was recovered from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation at Batuyingzi in China’s Liaoning Province.
The new species was part of the Jehol Biota, an Early Cretaceous terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem preserved in a multi-layered rock formation in northeastern China.
“Ruixinia zhangi is a medium-sized titanosauriform, but represents the largest sauropod dinosaur reported from the Jehol Biota, with the length of the femur larger than those of Liaoningotitan sinensis and Dongbeititan dongi, the two titanosauriform sauropods also from the Yixian Formation,” the paleontologists said.
“Its discovery adds a new element not only to the poorly preserved sauropod dinosaur in the Jehol Biota, but also to the already extensive diversity of titanosauriforms in the middle Early Cretaceous ecosystems of East Asia.”
The discovery is described in a paper published this month in the journal Cretaceous Research.
J. Mo et al. A New Titanosauriform Sauropod with an Unusual Tail from the Lower Cretaceous of Northeastern China. Cretaceous Research, published online December 9, 2022; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105449
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