Two new large dinosaur species that were almost as big as blue whales have been discovered in northwest China. And they are quite significant as they are among the first vertebrates to have ever been found in that area.
Researchers analyzed three specimens that were unearthed in the Turpan-Hami Basin in the Xinjiang region and compared them to other sauropod remains that have previously been found. They discovered that two of them were new species and named them Silutitan sinensis (“silu” means “Silk Road” in Mandarin) and Hamititan xinjiangensis (in reference to where the fossils were found). A neck vertebra was found belonging to the Silutitan sinensis species while the remains of the Hamititan xinjiangensis consisted of seven tail vertebrae (believed to be the 4th to 10th vertebrae in its spine).
Both names also include the word “titan” which means “giant” and they were definitely massive as the Silutitan sinensis species was estimated to have been more than 20 meters in length (65.6 feet) and the Hamititan xinjiangensis was believed to have been 17 meters long (55.8 feet). Based on how large they would have been, they probably weighed approximately 40 tons and 35 tons, respectively. To put this into better perspective, they were almost as big as blue whales which can grow between 23 and 30 meters in length (between 75 and 98 feet).
These two new species were part of the sauropod family and were alive sometime between 130 and 120 million years ago during the early part of the Cretaceous Period. Sauropods were plant-eating dinosaurs that are known for their extremely long neck, small head, bulky body, long tail, and four sturdy legs.
Pictures of the bones as well as images of what the Silutitan sinensis and Hamititan xinjiangensis would have looked like can be seen here.
In their paper, the researchers described the significance of the two new species, “The discovery of Silutitan sinensis and Hamititan xinjiangensis increased the sauropod diversity of Asia, particularly from an area where these vertebrates are not common,” adding, “Hamititan xinjiangensis is one of the few titanosaurian sauropod recovered from Asia, which shows an unusual combination of sauropod features.”
As for the third specimen that was found (four vertebrae and rib portions), it may have been a somphospondylan sauropod – a species that lived between 160.3 and 66 million years ago and that scientists had previously identified.
The study was published in Scientific Reports where it can be read in full.