'Dragon' Dino Had Neck Like a Crane

Qijianglong might have inspired tales of dragons in ancient China
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2015 7:00 PM CST
'Dragon' Dino Had Neck Like a Crane
Qijianglong ("CHI-jyang-lon") may have looked something like this.   (Xing Lida)

Scientists are seriously excited about a new long-necked dinosaur species found near China's Qijiang City. For one thing, fossils of the beast, which lived 160 million years ago in the Late Jurassic period, show a skull still attached to its neck—a rare find among dinosaurs like this as "the head is so small and easily detached after the animal dies," a researcher explains. For another, interlocking joints between the vertebrae suggest the dinosaur's neck moved vertically more than sideways, like a construction crane. Dubbed "dragon of Qijiang" or Qijianglong, the dinosaur belongs to the mamenchisaurids group, Phys.org reports. It stretched about 50 feet long, with its neck taking up half that length.

University of Alberta paleontologists say Qijianglong was able to support its massive neck because its vertebrae were filled with air, like a bird's, making it relatively lightweight, the Washington Post reports. "Qijianglong shows that long-necked dinosaurs diversified in unique ways in Asia during Jurassic times—something very special was going on in that continent," says a co-author of the paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. He's even curious whether Qijianglong inspired the dragon myths of its homeland. "I wonder if the ancient Chinese stumbled upon a skeleton of a long-necked dinosaur like Qijianglong and pictured that mythical creature." (In contrast, scientists recently found a bunny-sized dinosaur.)

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