A guide to the big sto­ries in science

Cosmos - - Contents - Con­trib­u­tors to Digest: EL­IZ­A­BETH FINKEL, AN­DREW MASTER­SON, PAUL BIEGLER, TANYA LOOS, MICHAEL LUCY, PHIL DOO­LEY

A Chi­nese fos­sil find tells a new story about the an­cient su­per­con­ti­nent Pan­gaea. Meet the amaz­ing dragon of Lingwu. This as­ton­ish­ing fos­sil is a new species of diplodocoid di­nosaur that was dis­cov­ered in the Lingwu re­gion in the north­west of China. Of­fi­cially named Ling­wu­long shenqi, the species were long-necked her­bi­vores that lived in the east of the su­per­con­ti­nent Pan­gaea 174 mil­lion years ago.

A shep­herd first stum­bled across some enor­mous bones back in 2004, and since then the re­mains of be­tween seven and 10 dragons have been found across sev­eral quar­ries. Though each find has some parts miss­ing, be­tween the lot of them, al­most a com­plete skele­ton can be as­sem­bled. (The dragon in the pic­ture is one of the most com­plete spec­i­mens.)

In a pa­per in Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Xing Xu and col­leagues have named the species and found its place in the di­nosaur fam­ily tree. It is the old­est diplodocoid ever found, and also the first ever found in East Asia.

Pre­vi­ously, palaeon­tol­o­gists be­lieved a sea had split Pan­gaea dur­ing the Juras­sic, pre­vent­ing many species of di­nosaur from reach­ing Asia. L. shenqi sug­gests that diplodocoids, at least, had spread across the su­per­con­ti­nent be­fore the split oc­curred.

CREDIT: XU XING

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