URUMQI, Apr 16 – Chinese palaeontologists announced on Sunday that they have discovered the largest Jurassic dinosaur fossil in the country so far, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The fossil remains show that the herbivorous sauropod dinosaur was 35 meters in length, and weighed about 30 tonnes, said professor Sun Ge, head of the expedition team that made the discovery, and deputy executive director of China Research Society of Palaeontology.
He told a press conference in Shanshan County, that the fossil was discovered in a stratum of the Middle Jurassic Period, about 165 million years ago.
Prior to this, the largest Jurassic dinosaur fossil discovered in China was less than 30 meters in length.
Sun said that palaeontologists are continuing the excavation of the fossil, hoping to unearth a complete skeleton.
He said that team members have also unearthed a tooth fossil which apparently belonged to a carnosaur not far from the herbivorous dinosaur fossil.
“We hope the future excavation will help unveil more evidence to suggest what caused the death of this mammoth creature,” he said.
The expedition team is composed of experts from Jilin University, Shenyang Normal University and Xinjiang Geological Survey Institute. They started the expedition in Shanshan in October last year.
This region is where Chinese and German experts unearthed the largest cluster of fossilized dinosaur tracks in China in 2008. The footprints were left by smaller-sized Jurassic carnosaurs. Most of the footprints are in three-toe shape and each footprint has three big and protruding toes with sharp claws.
Dong Zhiming, one of the discoverers of Shanshanosaur, a lizard-like carnivore, said the new discovery showed that the Turpan Basin had more favourable living conditions than previously known regions of southwestern Sichuan and Yunnan provinces for herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs in the late Jurassic period.
The expedition team has discovered more than 20 fossil sites in Shanshan, and unearthed more than 100 fossils of the terrapin species.
Dong said the findings suggested the dry Turpan Basin was once dotted with lakes and covered by lush green plants during the Jurassic Period, which was enough to feed the huge appetite of giant herbivorous dinosaurs.
Li Tingdong, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the dinosaur fossil research in Shanshan would provide important evidence for the research of Jurassic stratum and climate, and give clues for exploring oil and coal deposits in the region.
More than 40 officials and experts from China’s top palaeontologist research societies and Berlin Humboldt University attended the press conference.