Now, the discovery of Ingentia prima - a member of the Lessemsaurid group of dinosaurs and an ancestor of sauropods - shows that some dinosaurs had acquired several key characteristics during the Late Triassic that paved the way toward gigantism.
Dinosaurs first appeared around 230 million years ago, and it was believed to have taken them about 50 million years to become massive. "That's the surprise", said Cecilia Apaldetti, a government and San Juan University researcher, according to AFP.
Giant dinosaurs lived on Earth nearly 30 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of paleontologists in Argentina, who unearthed fossils of the earliest-known giant dinosaur.
The dinosaur - named Ingentia prima, meaning "the first giant" - was up to 33ft long and weighed about 10 tons, living about 210 million years ago during the Triassic Period.
Despite its size, the Ingentia prima paled in comparison to the 64-tonne giants of the Cretaceous period, when giant dinosaurs ruled the Earth 65 million years ago.
The dinosaur's bone fragments displayed cyclical and seasonal growth, with a different kind of tissue to other sauropods, which allowed it to grow very quickly.
Its size would also have put it at less risk of being eaten by the many flesh eating dinosaurs that were already around.
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For most dinosaurs, gigantism proved to be an evolutionary survival tool, especially among herbivores who could use their size as a form of defence against predators.
I. prima was also found alongside three specimens of an already known species called Lessemsaurus sauropoides. It was discovered in the Balde de Leyes dig site in San Juan province, 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) west of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.
The remains included shoulder blades, cervical vertebrae and bones from the forelimbs, feet and skull of the four dinosaurs.
"This respiratory system is related to the development of air sacs inside their bodies - like modern birds", said Dr Apaldetti. These repiratory structures may have been necessary to keep such large animals cool.
These creatures, unlike the sauropods that would come later, stood on bent legs, and featured bones that thickened through accelerated bursts, rather than steady, but still rapid, growth.
The last, iconic sauropods had the benefit of a long history of evolutionary innovation in this regard, said Dr Apaldetti. At the end of the Triassic period it was a type of savannah. It belongs to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes some of the largest land animals ever known to have existed.
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