Paleontologists in China discovered a new species of dinosaur that roamed the planet millions of years ago.
The fossil, found in northwestern China’s Lingwu region, was given the name of Lingwulong shenqi, which translates to “Lingwu amazing dragon.”
The discovery was announced Tuesday and may force researchers to rethink the entire lineage of the largest animals to roam the earth.
Lingwulong shenqi, a member of the plant-eating dinosaurs known as sauropods, lived 174 million years ago during the Jurassic period.
The scientists excavated bones from at least eight to 10 Lingwulong individuals, the largest of which was about 57 feet long, paleontologist Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications, told Reuters.
Researchers told the wire service the discovery pushes back by 15 million years the appearance of so-called advanced sauropods, which included some of the largest land animals ever.
“Previously, we thought all of these advanced sauropods originated around 160 million years ago and rapidly diversified and spread across the planet in a time window perhaps as short as 5 million years,” said University College London paleontologist Paul Upchurch, a study co-author.
But the discovery of Lingwulong means that this group originated somewhat earlier and more slowly, he added.
Lingwulong lived in a warm, wet environment with lush vegetation. Its neck was shorter than some other sauropods, and it could have grazed on soft plants with its peg-like teeth.
“Our discoveries indicate that eastern Asia was still connected to other continents at the time,” Xu said.