Image: Chase Stone/Imperial College London

A fossil tucked away in the recesses of a French museum has now been identified as the oldest known Titanosaur on record.

The newly found brachiosaurid has been named Vouivria damparisensis or the ‘viper’ dinosaur, based on the French word ‘vouivre’ from the Latin root ‘vipera’. While the fossil was found in the 1930s in the village Dampari in the region of French-Comte, it remained unidentified until recent inquiry.

The fossil has been preserved behind the walls of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, previously overlooked by science. Researchers have now positively identified the species as a Titanosaur, and a relative of the Brachiosaur. And not only just a type of titanosauriform dinosaur, but the oldest Brachiosaurid on record — which serves as a useful evolutionary finding. 

Brachiosaurus, a relative. Image: Nobu Tamura, Wikimedia Commons

These long-necked sauropods were herbivores and some of the most monstrous creatures to walk the earth, persisting from the late Jurassic to the Cretaceous period of mass extinction.

This new research attributes to greater diversity within the titanosauriform species than previously thought and extends back the history of their existence. The gigantic creature weighed more than 33,000 pounds, measured more than fifty feet in length, and lived around 160 million years ago, during a time when Europe was comprised primarily of islands.

“We don’t know what this creature died from, but millions of years later, it is providing important evidence to help us understand in more detail the evolution of brachiosaurid sauropods and a much bigger group of dinosaurs that they belonged to, called titanosauriforms,” lead author Dr Philip Mannion based out of the Imperial College London said in a statement.