Two almost-complete dinosaur skull fossils from 214 million years ago during the late part of the Triassic Period that were unearthed in Jameson Land, East Greenland, have been described as belonging to a new species. Named Issi saaneq, it translates to “cold bone” and it belonged to a group of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropodomorphs (these included sauropods) as well as being an ancestor of diplodocus.
Sauropods inhabited the Earth for over 140 million years, beginning in the Late Triassic Period and ending during the late part of the Cretaceous Period. These herbivorous dinosaurs had long necks and tails, but smaller skulls and brains with their nostrils located very high up on the skulls. Sauropods could grow as long as 130 feet (40 meters) and weighed as much as 80 tonnes. Their bones have been discovered in every continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica.
Issi saaneq measured 13 feet in length (4 meters), 5 feet in height (1.5 meters), and weighed as much as one tonne. “Compared to the long-necked dinosaurs that came after, Issi would have been a very small animal,” noted Victor Bennari from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, adding, “Some sauropods could reach over 80 feet in length and weigh more than 65 tons.” While it was considered small, it was one of the first sauropodomorphs to have inhabited the northern hemisphere.
Interestingly, the skulls were unearthed back in the early part of the 1990s by palaeontologists from Harvard University and were initially classified as belonging to another species, but they have recently been analyzed in extensive detail and re-categorized as an entirely new dinosaur species. One of the skulls belonged to a juvenile and the other may have been from a sub-adult (past the stage of being a juvenile but not yet a full adult).
Another note-worthy fact that the researchers noticed was that while Issi saaneq was unique in its own way, it also had some similarities to some Brazilian dinosaurs like Macrocollum and Unaysaurus; however, those two species are approximately 15 million years older than Issi saaneq.
Pictures of the Issi saaneq skulls, the dig site, and an image of what the newly identified species would have looked like can be seen here.
The study, which was conducted by a team of international palaeontologists from Portugal, Brazil, Denmark, and Germany, was published in the journal Diversity where it can be read in full.