Massive Titanosaur Sets New High Bar in Dinosaur Length
May 22, 2014 1:01 PM
Argentina find rivals Argentinosaurus, the previous largest well-studied dinosaur
At 30-40 m (roughly 100 to 130 feet) from head to tail and weighing in at 80-100 metric tons, the
was one of the longest and heaviest dinosaurs ever. Some say it was surpassed only by the 40-60 m (130-200 ft), 110 metric ton
. Others argue that Argentinosaurus is the true size king as the fossils of
discovered and documented in the 1870s were lost -- possibly due to decomposition during storage -- and no known skeleton currently exists.
I. The Heaviest Sauropod?
But a new Argentina herbivorous giant is exciting the world. A member of the genus
may be giving the good old
"Argentinosaur" a run for its money. According to new, well preserved specimens revealed last week at Argentina's
Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio
, the beast may have measured 130 feet (40 meters) and weighed 80 metric tons.
Those numbers mean that it likely was somewhat longer than the Argentinosaur, if perhaps a bit lighter.
The previous dino record holders (click to enlarge). [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Titanosaur, next to a modern giraffe and human. The predator that killed it --
-- is also pictured.
Professor José Luis Carballido -- a scientist with the museum who helped extract and study the specimens -- states:
It's like two trucks with a trailer each, one in front of the other, and the weight of 14 elephants together.
In total the paleontologists assembled seven of the massive skeletons from adult specimens that died at the site. Those seven incomplete skeletons were pieced together from roughly 200
from the red rock strata.
The researchers used backhoes to remove large boulders and debris. [Image Source: MEF]
Paleontologists estimate that the bones date back to 95 million years ago -- near the end of the Cretaceous,
the closing period of the Cenozoic Era
, the era in which dinosaurs dominated the land. They were found in cool, dry desert flats near Chubut, Argentina, located midway along Argentina's Atlantic coastline. The region -- part of the area known as Pantagonia -- is roughly 800 miles south of Argentina's capital and most populous city, Buenos Aires.
Researchers believe the pack of sauropods became dehydrated or stuck in thick mud flats. At that point they were ambushed by local predator dinosaurs, which appeared to have feasted on the veritable buffet of helpless prey.
Professor Pablo Puerta next to one of the Titanosaur femurs (Professor Puerta has
an entire genus of sauropods
named after him, so you know he means business). [Image Source: MEF]
The researchers came to this conclusion based on the fact that many of the skeletons were incomplete or had tooth marks. Further evidence comes from the discovery of numerous teeth (60+) from local predator dinosaurs, but no bones from these predators (which likely would have been found if the predators and herbivores alike perished in a natural disaster like a mudslide).
The teeth are believed to have come from the gigantic predatory
, a fearsome predator who measured up to 12.2 meters (40 ft) long.
Professor José Luis Carballido (right), with legendary dinosaur hunter Pablo Puerta (left)
[Image Source: MEF]
Professor Carballido comments:
Probably, [the predators] went to [eat] the herbivores' dead bodies. But the feast came at a price: The carnivores would lose many of their teeth as they attempted to bite the hard skin and flesh.
Sounds like the predators received a dose of dinosaur karma. But don't feel too bad -- those predators regrow their teeth.
II. Questions, Lost Challengers Loom
One thing worth noting though is that it's possible this new species is itself Argentinosaur, as Titanosaurs are not a true genus, but so-called "wastebin taxon", which is packed with sauropods of a variety of sizes that were found with only key structure pieces of the skeleton (the vertebra and leg bones) intact, but nonetheless were distinct enough to clearly not belong to known species. As part of sauropod classification requires toe bones and the skull, the new species' relatives are unclear.
In total 200 bones were extracted. Because no skulls or foot bones were found, it is unknown how closely the sauropod was related to the Argentinosaur. it's possible that it is a new kind of Argentinosaur, in fact. [Image Source: MEF]
But it would be a fair guess that the Titanosaur itself might have been a Argentinosaur, a genus whose members were discovered in the 1980s and were thought to have arisen on the then-island continent of South America (which at the time was somewhat akin to a large Australia).
Studies on the new beasts -- and a formal scientific name -- are still pending and it has yet to be fully displayed to the public.
We should be thankful for the wonders of modern preservation; at least two other megadinosaurs were lost due to the sites being flooded or to boned decomposition. [Image Source: MEF]
A closing note -- aside from
there is one more
even more controversial lost giant
that might have surpassed the new specimen and the Argentinosaur --
. Estimated to have weighed 139 tons, this species was discovered in 1989 near the southern tip of India, but remains and unofficial member of the record books, due to classification disputes and the loss of the only known specimen.
The Bruhathkayosaur was unearthed by the
Geological Survey of India
(GSI) and preliminary descriptions and line drawings were collected, but no pictures were reportedly taken. Researchers hoped to finish the extraction, but were stymied when a massive monsoon hit the region. In the aftermath the site was washed away, leaving yet another unsolved mystery.
Compounding the issue is the fact that researchers with the GSI who led the excavation classified the dinosaur as a Therapod -- a carnivorous bipedal dinosaur -- in their paper. But later analysis of the line drawings and descriptions led most other paleontologists to conclude that this was actually some sort of lost herbivorous sauropod.
The moral of the story is that the new Titanosaur, like its possible relative, the Argentinosaur, is a fortunate find in that it was extracted, safely preserved, and contained a relative wealth of fossilized remains, despite missing some key parts of the skeleton (the only region in which the Argentinosaur find from the 1980s trumps this one).
MEF [Google Translated from Spanish]
"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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