Say hello to Silutitan sinensis and Hamititan xinjiangensis, the newest additions to China’s prehistoric finds going back to the early Cretaceous period.

Artists' rendering of Silutitan sinensis (left) and Hamititan xinjiangensis (right).
Artists' rendering of Silutitan sinensis (left) and Hamititan xinjiangensis (right). (Courtesy of Chuang Zhao & Xiaolin Wang)

Scientists in China discovered two new dinosaur species in the northwest of the country. They are some of the first vertebrates uncovered in the region. 

Palaeontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Museum of Brazil published their findings in Scientific Reports. They found fossilised remains of two dinosaurs – rib cages and spinal vertebrae.

The dinosaurs are called Silutitan sinensis and Hamititan xinjiangensis. ‘Silu’ comes from Mandarin, meaning ‘Silk Road’, the ancient trade route from China to the Roman Empire. The word ‘titan’, seen in both names, means ‘giant’ in Greek. ‘Hami’ and ‘Xinjiang’ refer to the location where the bones were found, while ‘sine’ is the Latin name for China.

According to CNN, several fossils have been found in northwest China in recent years, including Xinjiang and the Turpan-Hami Basin. “These fossils comprise a number of pterosaurs (flying reptiles), preserved eggs and embryos,” CNN notes, “as well as fossil fragments of spinal vertebrae and rib cages.” At first scientists believed these belonged to three mystery dinosaurs. They later decided that the remains belonged to two previously unknown dinosaurs.

The third specimen that they examined was later decided not to be a new species. The researchers believe it to be “an indeterminate somphospondylan,” they write in Scientific Reports, referring to a group of dinosaurs that lived from the late Jurassic to late Cretaceous periods.

Both the newly-identified dinosaurs have ‘giant’ in their names as the Silutitan sinensis is estimated to be over 20 metres tall, while the Hamititan xinjiangensis is around 17 metres. Compared to blue whales, which can be as big as 23 to 30 metres, theirs is an impressive size.

According to the Week magazine, the newly discovered dinosaur species are part of the sauropod family, that is, they were “herbivores who had long necks and were the largest animals to ever roam the planet.”

According to the researchers, the dinosaurs were alive in the early Cretaceous period, going back 120 to 130 million years ago.

The researchers wrote in Scientific Reports that “Besides the pterosaur Hamipterus and one theropod tooth, these dinosaurs are the first vertebrates reported in this region, increasing the diversity of the fauna as well as the information on Chinese sauropods.”

“The diversity of somphospondylan sauropod genera from the Cretaceous of East Asia increased vastly in the last decades,” the study authors write. Yet there is still a matter of debate regarding the diversity of species and their classification, and their location in the dinosaur family tree, CNN notes.

According to the Week, the researchers will continue with their explorations of the area, believing in the possibility of discovering nests with fossilised embryos below the surface.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies