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Dinosaur unearthed in Argentina could be largest land animal ever (smithsonianmag.com)
217 points by gmays 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments



My thoughts go the the paelontologist first finding this - they start with a little paint brush, carefully uncovering a tail, then more tail, then a month later they are still on the freaking tail, worn down the bristles on two brushes and thinking "yeah yeah career making discovery but jesus a velociraptor would be done by now."

Edit: This is amazingly cool however - and honestly I cannot wait for Covid to end, decent public funding of science to appear and a facsimile of this skeleton to get stuck in every natural history museum going - my kids will be sick of their dad dragging them off to see a 120 foot long pile of bones - but up close and personal is pretty much the only way to appreciate this sort of thing.

Right that's it - tomorrow it's tape measeures and chalk outlines in the road outside!



Interestingly in the 2nd link that they have this creature towering over the local flora.

The long neck makes more sense if there are trees that size and the neck is to get to the leaves. Otherwise what use is it?


Two at least.

1. You can graze a wide radius without actually moving, which seems pretty energetically efficient.

2. Cooling. The neck is a lot of surface area to dissipate heat. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3812985/#!po=50...


It's just a render. The other graphic shows it reaching a height of 45 feet off the ground; modern trees far exceed that frequently.


giraffes have super long necks and yet they bend over to eat. The answer is runaway sexual selection (or at least that's the answer wrt to giraffes).


This centuries-old question is still not settled, right?

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160629-giraffes-did-not-evo...


This article confuses me. Why does it make the scientists out to be on opposite sides of the aisle? A giraffe that wins a neck to neck fight is also one that may have better chances of finding food high up a tree when resources are scarce - both can lead to better survival and hence passing of genes. It's not one or the other, it can can be both.


Giraffes also reach up to eat.

(They do look quite funny when bending down to drink, though!)


I used to live in Tanzania and over there, the trees are mostly shorter than the giraffes, but I'm sure they reach up to eat sometimes. I guess my point was that giraffes didn't evolve long necks to eat.


They have long legs to eat, and a long neck so they can still drink while having long legs


The weight estimate on that website has to be way off.

A male elephant can weigh up to 7 tons and they say that Titanosaurus would have weighed around 13 tons. Even with much lighter bones & co., at that size there's no way it would have weighed that little. A mammoth could weigh up to 12 tons, as another point of comparison.

A dinosaur like the one they depict would have weighed at least 50 tons, IMO.


I'm familiar with many non-standard measurements, but neither Google nor my dictionary is able to tell me what's a "skipful".

Anyone would like to give me the definition in SI?


"Skip" is British English for "container" [1].

Of course they come in various sizes, so it means anything from 1.5 m³ to just over 6 m³. A very rough measure, in other words, which makes sense in context.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skip_(container)


"Skip" is actually British English for "dumpster"


D'oh! Killed by a false friend [1]! Thanks.

("Container" is both "container" and "dumpster" in Swedish, and it's pronounced pretty much as "container" in English since it's a loan word, but the meanings have diverged, I guess.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_friend


Even on dry land? I thought we were leaning towards most of these giant sauropods being waders?


That view was mostly abandoned in the 70s-90s. They were just built very lightly, using a lot of the same weight-saving techniques (hollow, airy bones) used by modern birds.

(This lightness makes it unlikely they could function well in water; their torsos would float before getting very well immersed, which would indeed take weight off, but would also mean they'd have to hop along awkwardly on their front feet. This is supported by front-feet-only sauropod prints on once-submerged areas.)


> That view was mostly abandoned in the 70s-90s.

Come to think of it, most of my books about dinosaurs are probably from the 80s... :P

So the largest dinosaur bones were built more like trusses? That would make sense, I guess.


Side note: I'm very interested to know if those weight-saving measures came from a common ancestor between sauropods and birds, or if that's just convergent evolution in two branches of the dinosaur family that were solving similar engineering problems.


What was it eating? Whole tree canopies? Those animals must needed amazing amount of land to sustain, even though cold blooded.


Unlikely, I would think. An elephant could walk under it, but “stepping over” IMO would require it to be able to lift both its front and back feet by the height of an elephant (and make steps the width of an elephant, but that, I think is feasible).

How high a hurdle can an elephant clear? I know they can put their front feet on a pedestal that’s, ballpark, ½m, but I don’t see them step over one.


The paper Report of a giant titanosaur sauropod from the Upper Cretaceous of Neuquén Province, Argentina [1]:

> One of the most fascinating research topics in the field of sauropod dinosaurs is the evolution of gigantism. In the particular case of Titanosauria, the record of multi-ton species (those exceeding 40 tons) comes mainly from Patagonia. The record of super-sized titanosaur sauropods has traditionally been extremely fragmentary, although recent discoveries of more complete taxa have revealed significant anatomical information previously unavailable due to preservation biases. In this contribution we present a giant titanosaur sauropod from the Candeleros Formation (Cenomanian, circa 98 Ma) of Neuquén Province, composed of an articulated sequence of 20 most anterior plus 4 posterior caudal vertebrae and several appendicular bones.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S01956...


Wow. Something tells me if this is the new record for land animals we'll eventually find something that lived in the ocean that's bigger than a blue whale.


There's always a bigger fish!


But has this theorem ever been successfully applied to whales? :)


The word fish used to cast a wide net, so to speak.


I can only imagine we don’t do much digging for fossils in the sea floor, given how inaccessible it is and how lightly explored the oceans are in general. The exception being sea floor sufficiently ancient that it is now land.


How about a giant organism with an ocean inside of it?


To put this in context an American football field is 160 ft x 300 ft. If one of these were in a football stadium it would be somewhat cramped.


That's probably not a great visualization, since the actual football green is a tiny fraction of the stadium, and not even all of the actual pitch. The dinosaur is 40% of the length of the playable field, ignoring endzones and other buffer.

(don't get me wrong, it's still Very Large, but we're not talking Godzilla v Kong here)


Comparison to the field is like a dog in a kennel. I'd call that cramped. A stadium would be like a human in a studio apartment. I'd call that somewhat cramped


It would be cramped in a basketball court however.


> long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur called a titanosaur, potentially the largest ever unearthed.

I know the sauropods were mostly vegetarian but I can't help but figure that an animal of that size must have inadvertently swallowed a fair number of smaller animals.


Even sheep eat small animals (insects) on accident all the time.


A lot of herbivores are 'opportunistic carnivores'.

Deer and cows sometimes eat small birds or rodents if they can catch them. Seems they're just not really equipped to hunt. But they aren't actually vegetarian as we like to think they are.


Did scientists ever figure out how sauropods ate enough to support their mass, with their tiny mouths?


Cold-blooded animals need a lot less energy, for one.


Nibbling


"... paleontologists say what they’ve found suggests the dinosaur may be more than 120 feet long ..."

I really look forward to the day when US and its mighty allies Liberia and Myanmar would finally abandon these silly imperial units.


*metric day.


Can someone explain how something like this would work, is blood pressure, gravity affect on body, oxygen absorption.

I really can't get my head around how something like this would be possible, and how it could sustain itself.


Oxygen-wise, the answer may be a specific one-way lung structure still seen in modern birds.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/1/100114-alliga...


Plus isn't accurate that oxygen in air was much higher in the era this new found dinosaur was found? (edit) seems that this new find would be in the middle of the cretaceous period and according to some quick googling, it is thought the 02 levels were ~30% versus ~20% today.


Yes, up to 35% during the Carboniferous period, which allowed a whole host of creatures to get much bigger than they are today. I'm not sure when it dropped to the modern 21%, though.

https://forces.si.edu/atmosphere/02_02_06.html


Kinda ruins Jurassic park, the brachiosaurus should have been out of breath the whole time I bet...


I still enjoy Jurassic Park, but can't unsee a mental image of plucked, frozen supermarket chicken every time I look at the dinosaurs


Could this also explain why people in the Netherlands got so tall so quickly? Maybe by being below the level of the ocean they get more oxygen?

Edit: there’s no mention about oxygen or seal level in this article about Dutch people’s quick increase in height over the last 150 years https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/08/scientists-try...


The lowest point in the Netherlands is 22 feet below sea level. There's going to be no meaningful difference between that and zero.


Some of the world’s tallest folks are from East Africa, and most of Africa is fairly high above sea level.

Peruvians of Incan descent tend to be short, and I have heard that it is because of the elevated areas in which they live, so it’s likely to be a product of multiple coefficients.


Long legs are more efficient on flat terrain; short legs, in the mountains.


All the short ones perished before the canals. Sorry, dark humor, I’ll see myself out.


I didn't understand why the existing Patagontitan fossil and this new one weren't considered larger than the largest known Antarctic blue whale at 98 feet.

But it looks like by "largest animal" in this article they mean by weight.

The LONGEST animal is a 150 feet siphonophore, which seems to be some kind of jellyfish looking animal (I'm not sure about where it taxonomically fits on the tree of life though).


There is a truly excellent children’s book about the discovery of the Patagotitan, also in Argentina. It was my son’s favorite story for months. Highly Recommended!

https://kids.scholastic.com/kids/book/titanosaur-by-jose-lui...


Just ordered it, thanks for the recommendation :)


May I recommend this episode of the very excellent Common Descent podcast in which they discuss sauropods with great abandon?

https://commondescentpodcast.wordpress.com/2020/11/28/episod...


“ To reach a conclusion regarding the behemoth’s species and more accurately estimate its size, researchers will need to keep digging”

^ So to speak?


It’s only just occurred to me that dinosaur bones like this are in soil not rock? Even if it’s not technically soil, the bones are at least buried in something fairly soft.

That’s crazy. I’ve only ever thought of fossils as being encased inside hard rock.

The bias of the fossil record makes a discovery like this so unlikely that it’s objectively joyous when it happens.


Yes, fossils form in sedimentary rock, which is relatively soft rock.


The largest known dinosaur prior to this find was also found in Argentina, and aptly named the Argentinosaurus. He was 30m to 40m in length and weighed up to 100 Tonnes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentinosaurus


Non-american readers: 1 foot = 0.35m 120 feet = 36.57m


I think you made a typo: 1 foot = 0.305m (exactly 0.3048m).


To support dinosaur, earth should be much richer in natural resources, the ecosystem much more large that we could to imagine


And the previous one was found in Siberie, I suppose?


It's bigger than a 737


My first thought is to wonder how hard it would be to train


It was probably really dumb.


Sauropods heads are comparable in size to horses or cows, both of which are more intelligent than they are generally thought of as being.


And how fun it would be to ride it.




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