A Diplodocus-like dinosaur is the first of its kind to be found in Asia, suggesting the landmass could have helped dinosaurs reach other regions and that this group was more widely distributed across the planet than previously thought.
Hans-Dieter Sues at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and his colleague Alexander Averianov at the Russian Academy of Sciences described the dinosaur from a fossil found in Uzbekistan. They named the dinosaur Dzharatitanis kingi after the Dzharakuduk region in which it was found, as well as in honour of deceased colleague Christopher King, who had contributed to the work.
The pair say it is a sauropod, the group of dinosaurs that includes Diplodocus, and more specifically a rebbachisaurid, meaning it lacks a certain ridge on its vertebrae seen in other sauropods. Rebbachisaurids had previously only been found in North Africa, parts of Europe and America.
Like other sauropods, Dzharatitanis would have had a long, slender neck and relatively small head with a very long tail. Since the pair only had the animal’s vertebrae to examine, it is impossible to tell the age at which it died and difficult to estimate how big it could have grown, but Sues believes it might have reached between 15 and 20 metres. It would have lived about 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.
“We find new dinosaurs all the time, but this particular dinosaur represents a group that we’ve not found any evidence for in central Asia before,” says Paul Barrett at the Natural History Museum in London. “So, it gives some new insight into how widely distributed this particular dinosaur group was.”
“We’re still trying to put together how animals got distributed during the Cretaceous period because Europe at the time was basically a series of large and small islands and then you have this sort of huge land mass of Asia in the east and that landmass was connected to North America,” says Sues. Asia may have been a central hub for dinosaurs to move all over the planet, he says.