(Image credit: University of Pennsylvania)
A fossil of a new sauropod titanosaur, Yongjinglong datangi, has been discovered in northwestern China by University of Pennsylvania paleontologists. The dinosaur lived some 100 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period. The estimated length of this juvenile sauropod was about 20 meters. Adult animal of this species were probably larger.
The research was led by doctoral student Liguo Li and professor Peter Dodson.
Liguo Li: "The shoulder blade was very long, nearly 2 meters, with sides that were nearly parallel, unlike many other Titanosaurs whose scapulae bow outward."
The dinosaur's vertebrae had large cavities in the interior. The research team believes the large cavities in dinosaur's vertebrae contained air sacs.
"These spaces are unusually large in this species. It's believed that dinosaurs, like birds, had air sacs in their trunk, abdominal cavity and neck as a way of lightening the body." Image: University of Pennsylvania
My restoration of Yongjinglong datangi
Peter Dodson :
"...Not only does the discovery point to the fact that Titanosaurs encompass a diverse group of dinosaurs, but it also supports the growing consensus that sauropods were a dominant group in the Early Cretaceous — a view that U.S. specimens alone could not confirm.
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," Dodson said. "We now realise 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."
(citation from; http://www.science20.com/)
Indeed, while researching the late Albian ichnofauna near Pula, Istria, which is roughly the same age as this Chinese titanosaur, I came to the similar conclusion. Sauropods were large and their tracks abundant in the coastal intertidal environment. They were apparently, competing for food with giant iguanodontoids and ankylosaurs.
Paper: Li L-G, Li D-Q, You H-L, Dodson P (2014) A New Titanosaurian Sauropod from the Hekou Group (Lower Cretaceous) of the Lanzhou-Minhe Basin, Gansu Province, China. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85979.
The whole paper is here free for download.