Scientists have unearthed in Argentina's Patagonian desert fossils of what may be the oldest-known member of the dinosaur group known as Titanosaurs.
Researchers said that the fossils represent a dinosaur species named Ninjatitan zapatai that lived 140 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
They identified Ninjatitan as a Titanosaur, a group of long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs that walked on four pillar-like legs.
The researchers said Ninjatitan demonstrated that the Titanosaurs as a group first appeared earlier than previously known.
A number of Ttitanosaurs that inhabited Patagonia achieved gigantic proportions such as Argentinosaurus, Patagotitan and Dreadnoughtus.
Ninjatitan was a large dinosaur, but much smaller than later Titanosaurs such as Argentinosaurus that reached a longer length.
The presence of such an early Titanosaur in Patagonia supports the idea that Titanosaurs originated in the Southern Hemisphere.
Titanosaurs are part of a larger dinosaur group called sauropods that includes others with similar body designs such as Brontosaurus and Diplodocus that lived in North America during the Jurassic Period.
Patagonia is a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America, governed by Argentina and Chile.
The region comprises the southern section of the Andes Mountains, lakes, fjords, and glaciers in the west and deserts, tablelands and steppes to the east.
Patagonia is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and many bodies of water that connect them, such as the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, and the Drake Passage to the south.
Economy of eastern Patagonia revolves around sheep farming and oil and gas extraction, while in western Patagonia fishing, salmon aquaculture, and tourism dominate.