November 8, 2010
Paleontologists have found the first complete skeleton of an early sauropod, a 30-foot animal that lived 200 million years ago.
The rare discovery, which was made in China's Yunan region, is offers a closer look at the evolution of this herbivorous dinosaurs. Until now, their development has been "poorly understood because of a highly incomplete fossil record," according to Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University, who will be detailing discovery on Oct. 31 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver. Later sauropods would go on to average 120 feet in length and could weigh 100 tons. By comparison, this early incarnation of the dinosaur was a relative pipsqueak. Still, the skeleton found by Chatterjee's team reveals the the beginning of a long neck that would come later, as well as a four-legged posture. The skull is also in one piece.