Vouivria damparisensis is the oldest Titanosauriform discovered so far

Artist's concept of Vouivria damparisensis herd (Image courtesy Imperial College London/ Chase Stone)
Artist’s concept of Vouivria damparisensis herd (Image courtesy Imperial College London/ Chase Stone)

An article published in the journal “PeerJ” describes the study of the fossils of a dinosaur named Vouivria damparisensis. A team of researchers led by Dr. Philip Mannion of the Imperial College, London, re-examined these fossils discovered in 1934 in France, never identified and stored in the National Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris concluding that it’s the oldest Titanosauriform discovered so far.

Brachiosaurids (Brachiosauridae) were a family of herbivore dinosaurs with a long neck and size that could be as giant as the Brachiosaurs that giving it the name. Vouivria damparisensis was over 15 meters long for an estimated weight of about 15 tonnes. It was part of the brachiosaurid family, in turn part of the group of Titanosauriforms, sauropod dinosaurs that lived until the great extinction that about 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.

The doubts concern the origin of the Titanosauriforms and their diffusion and some answers came from this new research. The fossils studied were discovered in the French village of Damparis in 1934 and apparently were hastily studied because few references were found in subsequent years. At that time they were not identified as a new species, so references are vague and in some cases refer to another species called Bothriospondylus madagascariensis.

In 2010 Philip Mannion published in the journal “Palaeontology” an article that expressed doubts about the genus Bothriospondylus in general and the species Bothriospondylus madagascariensis in particular. That study led to a new examination of the dinosaur fossils of Damparis, carried out by Mannion together with some colleagues. The results were really interesting because the researchers concluded that this is a brachiosaurid that lived in the Late Jurassic, about 160 million years ago. This makes it the oldest member of the Titanosauriform group known so far.

The new research carried out by Philip Mannion’s team has produced results very different from the previous ones also concerning the environment in which Vouivria damparisensis lived. When the fossils were discovered in rocks that originally were in a sea coast, the researchers suggested that its carcass was transported to the sea because sauropods lived on the mainland.

The new study also concerned the rocks where the fossils were found and led to different conclusions. The authors of this new research believe that Vouivria damparisensis lived on the shores of a lagoon during a time when the sea level was falling in Europe. It was a short period in geological terms because after some time the sea level went up again and buried that area.

This research confirms the importance of the study of fossils known for some time that for some reason have been neglected. Sometimes paleontologists happen to rediscover some of these fossils and realizes that it’s a species not yet known and important. In the case of Vouivria damparisensis, the results provide new information on the development of Titanosauriforms with the possibility for researchers to keep on studying the relationships among the various species.

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