A discovery to remember3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Global City International School, Bangalore
In June this year, officials at Bergamo, Italy’s international airport made a shocking discovery. They discovered a dinosaur egg that was 159 million years old in bubble wrap shipped illegally from Malaysia.
Italy’s Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape have identified the egg, measuring approximately five inches in diameter with hardened sediment on one side, as that of the Shunosaurus species.
This species roamed the Earth during the late Jurassic period or the early Cretaceous period. Palaeontologists discovered the Shunosaurus in China in the year 1977. A group of students practising paleontological excavation at a road bank had first discovered the fossilised remains of the Shunosaurus. It was only classified formally in the year 1983; the generic name comes from Shu the ancient name for Sichuan, the Chinese province where the first fossil was found.
The Shunosaurus was first thought to be 11 metres (36 feet) long. Later, when more research was conducted, it was found to be smaller in size. It was a slow-moving herbivorous creature that had a life-span of probably 120 years. It had long legs in relation to its body. It was a short-necked creature with curved jaws having ladle-like teeth that had a crown length of up to 8 centimetres (3.1 inches). It used these teeth to crop up leaves of low-growing plants. Shunosaurus fossils have been found with small stones in the stomach, which the creature may have swallowed to help break up plant tissues. It belonged to the Sauropod genus that are usually known for their small brain and larger bodies.
The distinguishing feature of the Shunosaurus was a hard skeletal cluster of cartilage at the end of its tail with two successive spikes, which resembled a whip. Researchers believe that this was used ward off predators. It could sling its tail with force enough to shatter a rock.
The Shunosaurus is one of the best anatomically known Sauropods with 94 per cent of all its skeletal elements identified by researchers. The Sauropods are believed to have flourished for another 80 million years compared to the other herbivorous dinosaurs. They had held their own against the newcomers, the duckbilled and the horned dinosaurs, by competing for a new food source that made its entry during the Cretaceous – flowering plants. Truly, the Shunosaurus was a star in its own right!
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