Qijianglong, meaning "dragon of Qijiang", is about 15 metres in length and lived about 160 million years ago in the Late Jurassic. The fossil site was found by the construction workers in 2006, and the digging eventually hit a series of large neck vertebrae stretched out in the ground.

"Qijianglong shows that long-necked dinosaurs diversified in unique ways in Asia during Jurassic times - something very special was going on in that continent," said Tetsuto Miyashita, a PhD student at University of Alberta. Interestingly, the head of the dinosaur was still attached.

"It is rare to find a head and neck of a long-necked dinosaur together because the head is so small and easily detached after the animal dies," Miyashita noted. The new species belongs to a group of dinosaurs called mamenchisaurids, known for their extremely long necks sometimes measuring up to half the length of their bodies.

"Qijianglong is a cool animal. If you imagine a big animal that is half-neck, you can see that evolution can do quite extraordinary things," Miyashita pointed out.

Though Mamenchisaurids are found only in Asia, the discovery shows that there may be many differences among Mamenchisaurids as there are between long-necked dinosaurs from different continents.

"Nowhere else we can find dinosaurs with longer necks than those in China. The new dinosaur tells us that these extreme species thrived in isolation from the rest of the world," explained Miyashita. The findings appeared in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

 

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