The discovery of a new sauropod dinosaur species, Leinkupal laticauda, found in Argentina may be the first record of a diplodocid from South America and the youngest record of Diplodocidae in the world.
Diplodocids are part of a group of sauropod dinosaurs known for their large bodies, as well as extremely long necks and tails. Scientists have identified a new diplodocid sauropod from the early Cretaceous period in Patagonia, Argentina — the first diplodocid sauropod discovered in South America.
Though the bones are fragmentary, scientists found differences between this species and other diplodocid species from North American and Africa in the vertebrae where the tail connects to the body.
These differences suggest to the authors that it may warrant a new species name, Leinkupal laticauda.
Additionally, since Leinkupal laticauda apparently lived much later than its North American and African cousins, its existence suggests that the supposed extinction of the Diplodocidae around the end of the Jurassic or beginning of the Cretaceous period didn’t occur globally, but that the clade survived in South America at least during part of the Early Cretaceous.
As Tyrannosaurus rex is for theropods, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus are by far the most emblematic sauropod dinosaurs. They are known from nearly complete skeletons found during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in North America. Both genera can be easily recognized, with their large bodies capped by extremely long necks and tails. Both genera bear elongated and biconvex distal caudal vertebrae, and anteroposteriorly extended skulls with narrow teeth restricted to the distal snout. These taxa are members of the Diplodocidae, a family recorded in Late Jurassic strata from North America, Europe, and Africa. Diplodocids are part of the Diplodocoidea, a vast clade whose other members (e.g., Rebbachisauridae and Dicraeosauridae) are well-known from Jurassic and Cretaceous strata in Africa, Europe, North and South America. Diplodocids were not recorded from any other southern land mass besides Africa, although their occurrence in South America was potentially expected .
Until now, the lack of reliable evidence for the survival of Diplodocidae after the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary led authors to propose an extinction event for the group at that time. However, this absence has also been potentially attributed to taphonomic or sampling biases driven by worldwide sea level changes registered for the early Lower Cretaceous.
Here, we report a new sauropod dinosaur from the early Lower Cretaceous of Neuquén Province, Patagonia, Argentina. This discovery represents the first record of a diplodocid for South America and the youngest record of Diplodocidae in the world. Furthermore, the presence of a diplodocid in Argentina augments the list of sauropod clades for this country, now including not only basal eusauropods but also all neosauropod clades, both basal and derived forms of Macronaria, as well as both basal and derived forms of Diplodocoidea, thus turning the area into an extremely rich portrait of sauropod evolution.
Detailed research on: Pablo A. Gallina, Sebastián Apesteguía, Alejandro Haluza, Juan I. Canale. A Diplodocid Sauropod Survivor from the Early Cretaceous of South America. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (5): e97128 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097128