Step aside, T-rex. There’s a new prehistoric monster in town.
Paleontologists from the University of Alberta discovered a new species of dinosaur with a neck half the length of its entire body. Known as Qijianglong, the 49 ft. dinosaur is believed to have sparked enduring dragon myths in ancient China (its name translates to “dragon of Qijiang”), due to its freakishly long vertebra.
“There is one theory that the Chinese got an inspiration for the dragon by looking at a dinosaur skeleton in the ground,” one of the scientists, Tetsuto Miyashita told the Canadian Press. “They stumbled upon a long-necked creature like this and they didn’t know what it was. So they put the crocodiles and snakes that they knew together to picture a big, mythical creature like dragons.”
Even though there are plenty of dinosaurs with long necks, they usually only grow to become one third of their body lengths. For Qijianglongs though, it’s about 7.5 metres – the same distance from the tip of its tail to the base of its neck.
So why is the dinosaur’s head not dragging on the floor, you ask? Evolution seems to have helped there. The neck of the Qijianglong was filled with air to prevent it from being top heavy. Interestingly though, interlocking joints between the vertebrae indicate the prehistoric animal had a surprisingly stiff neck that was much more mobile for bending vertically than sideways, like a construction crane.
Miyashita says the herbivore, which was initially discovered at a construction site in China, would have lived on land about 160 million years ago during the Jurassic period.
But personally, we’re just glad it can’t breathe fire.