The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is based on an analysis of fossils that have emerged from China’s northwest regions – in Xinjiang and the Turpan-Hami Basin – which increase the diversity of these extinct megafauna in the Asian continent.
The scientists, including those from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, found two of the fossil specimens were from previously unknown species.
They have named the two sauropod giant dinosaur species Silutitan sinensis – “silu” meaning “Silk Road” in Mandarin – and Hamititan xinjiangensis, a nod to the region where it was found.
The Silutitan species, researchers estimated, could be over 20 metres long and the Hamititan specimen may have been about 17 metres long, compared to modern-day blue whales which grow to lengths of 23-30 metres.
The two species – dating back to the early Cretaceous period about 120 to 130 million years ago – belong to the sauropod family, which includes a group of plant-eating dinosaurs with characteristic long necks and were some of the largest animals to have roamed the planet, said the study.
The fossils were uncovered in places where these vertebrates are not common, increasing the sauropod diversity of Asia, according to the scientists.
“These dinosaurs are the first vertebrates reported in this region, increasing the diversity of the fauna as well as the information on Chinese sauropods,” the scientists said in the study.
While China has experienced a surge in the discovery of new dinosaur fossils, offering more clues to the diversity of the giant reptiles, they said there is still debate over the relationship between species and their classification.
In April, scientists discovered the first-known fossil of a flying dinosaur with opposable thumbs – nicknamed the monkeydactyl – in Liaoning, northeastern China, a hotbed for fossil discovery.
Last year palaeontologists in China unearthed the fossil of a 125 million-year-old dinosaur buried by Pompei-like volcanic eruptions and the year before that, they found the remains of little dinosaurs with bat-like wings.
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