Researchers have discovered Greenland’s first dinosaur, which lived there 214 million years ago.
The Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) made the discovery alongside an international team of researchers from Portugal, Denmark, and Germany.
It was discovered as being the predecessor of the largest group of land animals to ever exist, the sauropods.
Palaeontologists from Harvard University first unearthed the initial remains of the dinosaur in 1994. Upon excavating an area in East Greenland, the team found two skulls that had been very well preserved, Eurek!Alert reports.
One of the skulls was originally thought to have been from the Triassic Period, and was misidentified as having belonged to a plateosaurus, which lived in Switzerland, Germany and France.
The plateosaurus, similarly to ‘cold bone’, had a long neck, and only a few of the dinosaurs had been documented before.
However, after analysing the skulls, the group discovered that the specimens ‘certainly belong[ed] to a new species’.
At NOVA University Lisbon, the research team created a digital 3D model of the skulls’ internal structures by performing a micro-CT scan. This revealed that the ‘anatomy of the two skills [was] unique in many respects, for example, in the shape and proportions of the bones’, lead author Victor Beccari explained.
‘It is exciting to discover a close relative of the well-known Plateosaurus, hundreds of which have already been found here in Germany,’ Dr Oliver Wings from MLU and co-author of the study, noted.
Alongside having a long neck, the dinosaur had two legs, was medium-sized and was a herbivore.
It existed during the Late Triassic Period, when the Atlantic Ocean begun to form as a result of the supercontinent Pangaea breaking apart.
Professor Lars Clemmensen, from the University of Copenhagen, noted, ‘At the time, the Earth was experiencing climate changes that enabled the first plant-eating dinosaurs to reach Europe and beyond.’
One of the skulls discovered was revealed as being from a juvenile dinosaur, and the other from one that was on the cusp of adulthood. Apart from the difference in size, the bone structures of the pair were nearly identical, and only differed in relation to their proportions.
The newly-discovered ‘cold bone’ holds many differences to the sauropodomorphs previously discovered, however it is similar to dinosaurs that are around 15 million years older, which were found in Brazil, called the macrocollum and unaysaurus.
The Brazilian dinosaurs, the plateosaurus and the ‘cold bone’ subsequently form a group of bipeds spanning between three to 10 metres, known as pateosaurids.
The discovery of the ‘cold bone’, which is the first evidence of a dinosaur species distinct to Greenland, subsequently offers exciting possibilities.
It could allow researchers to place together a more in depth timeline for the sauropod over the past 150 million years the group has inhabited earth, to helping scientists further understand dinosaurs’ evolutionary pathways.
Once the research has concluded, the ‘cold bone’ skulls will be sent to Denmark’s Natural History Museum.
The report of the discovery can be found in the journal Diversity.
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