A chunky dinosaur with a very long neck that was unearthed in China has recently been identified. While the fossils were initially recovered nearly 30 years ago in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, it was misidentified and has recently been re-analyzed and re-identified to its proper classification. Named Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis, this new sauropod species lived approximately 155 million years ago.
Incredibly, by analyzing its 2-meter-long (6.6 feet) forelimb, the researchers were able to determine that this new species had many different features than other sauropods – this included the fact that it was much chunkier than the others. For example, the bones were much bulkier than other sauropod fossils that had previously been found.
While sauropods are known for their long necks and tails, Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis belonged to a group called mamenchisaurs that had even longer necks and tails than other species as explained by Professor Paul Barrett who is a dinosaur researcher and expert on sauropods at the Natural History Museum, “These dinosaurs added extra vertebrae to their necks to elongate them, and in addition to this made each individual neck vertebra longer.” “We don't know why they did this, but we presume it was either a feeding adaptation or sexual selection.”
As for its unusually stocky size, Professor Barrett stated, “It is that chunkiness of the arm which gives the animal its name, which means ‘robust forearm’,” adding, “There are also ridges reflecting strong muscle attachments.”
He went on to describe the part of the forearm called the “funny bone” that was particularly big, “We think that an unusually large chunky projection at the top of its funny bone is associated with a more strongly flexed forelimb, so that the forelimb is held habitually in a slightly bent, rather than straight pose.” “We think this means that the forelimb was not just propping the large animal up, but that they might have been doing something interesting with it.”
Based on these unique characteristics, this new species may have been in the process of improving the way that it walked and moved around. The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology where it can be read in full.
A picture of the bones and an image of what Rhomaleopakhus turpanensis may have looked like can be viewed here.