Bengaluru: Paleontologists in Argentina have unearthed fossilised bones of a dinosaur that may be the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. The 98-million-year-old bones of a titanosaur found at Neuquén Province in Argentina’s northwest Patagonia, were unearthed in a sedimentary structure called the candeleros formation.
Bones found were 24 vertebrae of the tail and parts of the dinosaur’s pelvic structure.
The findings were published in the journal Cretaceous Research last week. The research was conducted by Argentina’s The Zapala Museum, Museo de La Plata, Museo Egidio Feruglio and the universities of Río Negro and Zaragoza.
Titanosaurs fall under the group sauropoda, whose members are known as sauropods. Sauropods were some of the largest animals to walk on Earth. They were characterised by their long necks and tails, massive bodies, small heads, four elephant-like legs, and a herbivorous diet. The diplodocus, apatosaurus, brachiosaurus, and brontosaurus, as made popular in the movie Jurassic Park, were all sauropods.
These dinosaurs lived in the late Jurassic period (150 million years ago). By the late Cretaceous (about 70 million years ago) period, the titanosaurs dominated. Just like most non-avian dinosaurs, they were wiped out in the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction 66 million years ago, when a large asteroid struck the Earth.
It has been found that titanosaurs, the largest among sauropods, had replaced all other sauropods before the extinction. The largest titanosaurs fossils, from animals estimated to have weighed anywhere between 40,000 kg and 90,000 kg, have all come from Patagonia, where the newest one was found.
Titanosaurs have been found on all continents, except Antarctica.
Sizes and weights
Two of the largest known dinosaurs were both sauropods. They were the patagotitan and the argentinosaur. The former is likely to have weighed almost 70,000 kg, while the latter was even heavier, at nearly 99,000 kg.
For the new fossil, without a humerus or femur bones of the leg, experts say it’s difficult to gauge how big the dinosaur was and how much it weighed. But the team has said the dinosaur is comparable or even exceeding the size and weight of argentinosaurs and patagotitans.
Scientists have also estimated that the creature could have been 122-foot-long and may have weighed almost 90,000 kg. The fossil structure is currently incomplete and palaeontologists hope to gather more bones in the future. Until then, the exact species of the dinosaur also remains unknown.