Detail of the dinosaur vertebra discovered in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan: researchers discover new dinosaur species

A team of international researchers discovered a brontosaurus-like Sauropod fossil in Uzbekistan this February. Dubbed Dzharatitanis kingi, this fossil is the first of its kind found in Central Asia.

This article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 19 March 2021.

Researchers Hans-Dieter Sues and Alexander Averianov published an article in the scientific journal PLOS One announcing the discovery of a vertebra from a sauropod dinosaur from the same family as the brontosaurus on 24 February 2021.

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The dinosaur, found in the Kyzylkum Desert in western Uzbekistan, is the first of its kind in Asia. The researchers named it Dzharatitanis Kingi, a reference to the region it was discovered as well as a tribute to the late Christopher King, a geologist who took part in the work.

According to Russian media outlet Sputnik, the Dzharatitanis Kingi would have lived on a coastal plain in the west of the Asian continent near the ancient Tethys Ocean 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous period and would have been nearly 20 metres in length.

The first fossil of this type in Central Asia

Sputnik adds that, up until now, any remains from the Rebbachisauridae family, to which the Dzharatitanis kingi belongs, have only been found in North Africa, North America and Europe.

As such, discovering this fossil in this region of Asia supports the theory that continents were grouped together in the early Cretaceous period. During much of the Cretaceous period, Asia was separated from Europe by a strip of water called the Turgai Strait. Scientists believe an earth bridge linked the two.

Important research work carried out in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

In an interview with Novastan, the paleontologist Hans-Dieter Sues, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and co-author of the article, confirmed that this discovery was the result of a long research effort that began in the 1970s.

The work leading up to the discovery of this fossil, Sues explained, was carried out under the direction of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. He also pointed out the crucial role of the Russian paleontologist Lev Nesov: “Until the 1970s it was known that there were dinosaur fossils in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan but it was not until then that a scientist from St. Petersburg State University, Lev A. Nesov, systematically searched for fossils.”

He also indicated that it was not until Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991 that Western researchers could join Lev Nessov’s project. The research team is now made up of Uzbek, Russian, British and American researchers. After Nesov’s death in 1995, his former student Alexander Averianov, of the Russian Institute of Zoological Sciences, took on the role of co-leader of the expeditions.

This discovery is only the beginning of a long research effort in the region. “Central Asia still has a lot of potential in the search for fossils,” Hans Sues concluded.

Joanna Blain

Translated from French by Alice Coveney

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