A new species of suaropod has been discovered according to a recent paper in the American Museum Novitiates. The find has been christened Erketu ellisoni and was discovered in Bor Guve, Mongolia. The find consists of the 1st-5th cervical vertebrae, a partial sixth vertebrate, the right sternal plate and the articulated tibia, fibula, astragulus and calcaneum. The cervical vertebrae, in particular, display some interesting features.
The above is the 3rd cervical vertebra. Generally speaking there are two ways to elongate a neck. First, you can elongate the individual vertebra (as seen in brachiosaurs and Erketu). Second, one can add individual elements (brachiosaurs have 13 – elongate – cervical vertebrae, another long necked species, Euhelopus, has 17 – nonelongate – vertebrae). A third alternative is to do both.Erketu ellisonis’ cervical vertebrae are elongate (as a matter of fact they have the highest elongation index exceeds all other sauropodes for which data is available and are about 2 foot long), but since only six of them have been recovered we do not know how many they actually had. Increasing neck length also means an increase in neck weight, which could pose a problem in terms of being able to lift the neck and head. In Erketu ellisoni the cervical vertebrae are pneumatized and, consequently, lighter.
The vertebra on the right shows this to good effect the dark grey are represents a feature called camellae or pneumatic chambers and resemble similar morphology in birds.
Although Erketu has a longer neck than most sauropods, it also has a smaller body. According to National Geographic:
The researchers conclude that the smaller dinosaur was oddly proportioned even for a sauropod.
The above is a picture of the tibia, fibula, astragulus and calcaneum.
Because only a few pieces of the skeleton wre found, the phylogentic analysis of Erketus’ position in the sauropodia is somewhat tentative. preliminarily it is either a titanosaur or a member of the sister group to the titanosauria.
An interesting sidenote. The team also found fossil angiosperms, possibly related to okra.