"But with this discovery we can see the first steps toward gigantism occurred 30 million years before the giants dominated practically the entire planet".
It used to be thought that such giant dinosaurs thrived in the Jurassic Period.
Ingentia was an early member of a dinosaur group called sauropods that later included Earth's biggest terrestrial creatures including the Patagonian behemoths Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus and Patagotitan.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers reported the discovery of new dinosaur species that suggest gigantism evolved about 30 million years earlier than scientists previously thought.
An improved respiratory system and modifications to the vertebral musculature and hind limbs were key factors to the giant growth spurt, theorize the researchers. In addition, they possessed a long neck and tail, and rapidly gaining ground.
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What is really unexpected is that the lessemsaurids achieved their huge bodies independently of the very big sauropods like Brontosaurus and Diplodocus, which did indeed evolve later during the Jurassic.
The creature has been dubbed "Ingentia prima" (Latin for "first giant"), and it's been classed as a sauropodomorph, the group that would later evolve into the huge sauropods.
Fellow co-author Ricardo Martinez believes the Ingenia prima is from "a Late Triassic period, possibly 205 million years" ago. It was at least twice as large as the other plant-eaters that shared the warm, savannah environment it inhabited. Dinosaur fans need to learn a new name, the lessemsaurids, because these were the first dinosaurs to grow to giant sizes of around 10 tonnes, back in the Triassic Period some 215 million years ago. The partial fossil, found buried within the southern outcrops of the Quebrada del Barro Formation in northwestern Argentina, consists of several neck vertebrae, a shoulder bone, and several bones from its legs and tail. However, unlike the diplodocus and other later sauropod relatives, lessemsaurids stood on bent legs and had bones which grew in short, accelerated bursts.
The last, iconic sauropods had the benefit of a long history of evolutionary innovation in this regard, said Dr Apaldetti.
Sauropods - the largest land animals to ever appear on Earth - came from humble beginnings.