Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that measured 13 feet in length, 5 feet tall, and weighed over a tonne. It was an ancestor to diplodocus. 

Researchers report the unearthing of two almost complete skull fossils of the plant-eating dinosaur in Jameson Land, east Greenland.  

The new dinosaur species honours the local Inuit language – its scientific name Issi saaneq means ‘Cold Bone’. 

Previously mistaken for an already-existing species, Cold Bone lived during the late Triassic period approximately 214 million years ago when East Greenland was connected to Europe. 

An artist's impression of the new dinosaur species, called Issi saaneq, otherwise known as Cold Bone

An artist’s impression of the new dinosaur species, called Issi saaneq, otherwise known as Cold Bone

The new species was identified from two fossils dug up at at Jameson Land in East Greenland

Two fossils found at Jameson Land, East Greenland, helped to identify the new species.


Scientific name: Issi saaneq

Length: 13 feet

Height: 5 feet

Weight: Up to one tonne

Diet: Herbivorous

Cold Bone belongs to a group of long-necked dinosaurs called the sauropodomorphs, which includes the sauropods.  

Some of the largest terrestrial animals of all time later evolved from this group, including diplodocus. 

An international team of palaeontologists from Brazil, Portugal, Germany and Denmark have detailed the species in a study published in the journal Diversity.  

‘Compared to the long-necked dinosaurs that came after, Issi would have been a very small animal,’ said study author Victor Bennari at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.

“Some sauropods can reach over 80 feet in height and weigh more than 65 tonnes.”  

Researchers say that the new species is the first to have lived on northern hemisphere soil. 

Scans (right) of the recovered Issi saaneq fossils (left), which comprise two almost complete skulls

Scans (right) of the recovered Issi saaneq fossils (left), which comprise two almost complete skulls 

It was a medium-sized and long-necked dinosaur. It was also the first sauropodomorph ever to reach latitudes greater than 40 degrees north (approximately level with northern California and central Spain).

The remains – two almost complete skulls – were recovered by palaeontologists from Harvard University in expeditions to Greenland during the early 1990s. 

Scientists have only just completed a thorough study of the remains and have classified it as a novel species.  

Both skulls were segmented and scanned with micro-CT-scan to study the material. This allowed for visualisation of internal structures as well as bones that were not covered by sediment.

The researchers created 3D models of the remains, which are now available for download at MorphoSource.  

These skulls belonged to a juvenile, and possibly a subadult. The differences between the skulls are minor and purely related to proportions. This shows that they are of the same species.

One of these specimens belonged to Plateosaurus, a Triassic sauropodomorph that can be found in France, Germany and Switzerland. 

Victor Beccari from the NOVA school of science and technology in Almada, Portugal, did a new assessment and examined the dinosaur fossils in detail.

Pictured, the team's paleontological dig in Greenland. The newly discovered plant eater was over 13 feet long, five feet tall and weighed up to a tonne

Pictured is the team’s Greenland paleontological dig. The plant eater, which was more than 13 feet in length and five feet tall, weighed over a tonne.

Beccari observed anatomical differences between the skull bones, which allowed him to distinguish the Greenland dinosaur and the European Plateosaurus.

Beccari said that the two skulls are distinct in many aspects of their anatomy, including their bone proportions, shapes, and sizes. These specimens definitely belong to a new species. 

Pangaea was a supercontinent that incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth

Pangaea was a supercontinent which incorporated nearly all of the landmasses on Earth

During the Late Triassic, East Greenland was connected with what is now Europe.

Cold Bone was alive when the supercontinent Pangaea collapsed and the Atlantic Ocean began its formation. 

Greenland was thus a transitional environment that existed between the humid central part of Pangea and its humid peripheral parts. 

The East Greenland fauna was diverse at this time. It included large fishes and amphibians, as well as phytosaurs and pterosaurs. 

Lars Clemmensen, University of Copenhagen study author, said that back then, climate changes allowed for the first plant-eating dinosaurs in Europe and beyond. 

Although dinosaurs are well-known for their complete skeletons, numerous trackways and Jameson Land, East Greenland, many of their bones have never been fully described.

Sauropod dinosaurs (pictured) walked on four legs and had distinctive long necks. They were widespread - their remains have been found on all the continents except Antarctica

Sauropod dinosaurs (pictured below) walked on four legs with distinctive long necks. They were widespread; their remains have been discovered on all continents, except Antarctica.

Cold Bone is unique among all other sauropodomorphs. It also has similarities to Brazilian dinosaurs such as Unaysaurus or Macrocollum.

The Brazilian dinosaurs are 15 million years older then Issi. 

These dinosaurs, together with the European Plateosaurus and Cold Bone, form the group plateosaurid sauropodomorphs.

Plateosaurids were bipedal gracile mammals that measured around 10-30 feet (three-10 metres) in height.


Sauropods were the first successful herbivorous dinosaur group. They dominated terrestrial ecosystems for more 140 million years from the Late Triassic through the Late Cretaceous. 

They had long necks, tails, and small skulls and brains.

They could reach 130 feet (40 m) in length and weighed as much as 80 tonnes (80,000 kg) – 14 times that of an African elephant.

They were widespread and their remains have been found on all continents, except Antarctica.  

They had nostrils that were higher than the rest of their skulls, rather than at the end of their snouts like many terrestrial vertebrates. 

Some fossils indicate that these nostril openings were so far above the skull that they were very close to eye openings. 

Sauropods like the Diplodocus began diversifying in the Middle Jurassic around 180 million years ago. 

Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology