Scientists in Argentina say they have found the remains of what could be the largest dinosaur ever to have walked the planet. By analyzing the fossils, they say it could have been 40 meters in length and weighed 77 tons – as much as 14 elephants.
The discovery was made by a local farm worker in Patagonia. The fossils were then excavated by a team of paleontologists from the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio, led by Dr Jose Luis Carballido and Dr Diego Pol. The scientists were able to calculate the size of the dinosaur by measuring the size of the thighbone.
They unearthed the partial skeletons of seven individuals - about 150 bones in total - all in “remarkable condition.” Speaking to the BBC, they added, “Given the size of these bones, which surpass any of the previously known giant animals, the new dinosaur is the largest animal known that walked on Earth.”
"Its length, from its head to the tip of its tail, was 40m. Standing with its neck up, it was about 20m high - equal to a seven-story building,” they added.
The dinosaur is a type of titanosaur, the largest creatures in earth’s history. The team who made the discovery said that the fossils proved diplodocids roamed South America during the early Cretaceous era, millions of years after scientists thought these kinds of dinosaurs had become extinct.
Diplodocids were relatively slender but extremely long. They are believed to have reached up to 34 meters in length. Their necks were also extremely long, and according to recent computer simulations, they may not have been able to lift their necks like other sauropods.
Sauropods are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land. The name Sauropod is derived from Greek, meaning ‘lizard foot.’
Despite being what could be the world’s largest ever dinosaur, it still does not have a name.
“It will be named describing its magnificence and in honor to both the region and the farm owners who alerted us about the discovery,” the researchers said.
However, Dr Paul Barrett, a dinosaur expert from London’s Natural History Museum, who agreed the new species is “a genuinely big critter,” he cautioned that a number of sauropod thigh bones of comparable dimensions had been discovered in the past. Paleontologists also had various methods for calculating size and weight from incomplete skeletons, he added.
“Without knowing more about this current find it’s difficult to be sure,” Dr Barrett said, according to the BBC. “One problem with assessing the weight of both Argentinosaurus and this new discovery is that they’re both based on very fragmentary specimens - no complete skeleton is known, which means the animal’s proportions and overall shape are conjectural.”
The Argentinosaurus was previously the biggest dinosaur discovered, also in Argentina as the name suggests. It was found in 1987 and was initially believed to have weighed 100 tons, but was revised down to 70 tons after further analysis.
This discovery comes just days after Argentine scientists made another discovery, also in Patagonia, where they uncovered a much smaller sauropod, which was nine meters in length.
It lived about 140 million years ago, millions of years after scientists had previously thought diplodocids had disappeared, according to Argentine paleontologist, Pablo Gallina, one of the researchers.
"Finding Leinkupal was incredibly exciting since we never though it possible. A diplodocid in South America is as strange as finding a T- Rex in Patagonia," added another of the scientists, Argentine paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía, referring to the North American dinosaur predator Tyrannosaurus Rex.