Paleontologists have uncovered the fossilized remains of a 98-million-year-old dinosaur in Argentina, believing it could be one of the largest land creatures ever to have existed.
The remains, comprising 24 tail vertebrae and parts of the pelvic and pectoral girdle, were discovered within the Candeleros Formation, a dense sedimentary rock formation in Neuquén Province in Argentina’s northwest Patagonia, reports CNN.
Experts believe the remains belong to a titanosaur, a large quadrupedal dinosaur with a small head and a long neck and tail belonging to the forest-dwelling herbivorous sauropod (lizard-footed) family. Well-known genera include the diplodocus and brontosaurus.
“It is a huge dinosaur,” paleontologist Alejandro Otero, of Argentina’s Museo de La Plata, explained, “but we expect to find much more of the skeleton in future field trips, so we’ll have the possibility to address with confidence how really big it was.”
The dig was a collaboration between Museo de La Plata, Argentina’s The Zapala Museum, Museo Egidio Feruglio, and the universities of Río Negro and Zaragoza.
The research group claimed that their analysis of the remains “does not currently allow” for them to regard it as a new species. Yet, publishing their findings in the journal Cretaceous Research, experts claimed the creature was likely “one of the largest sauropods ever found,” bigger, even, than the Patagotitan.
The Patagotitan, a sauropod species that walked the earth 100 million to 95 million years ago, measured up to 122 feet in length and weighed up to 77 tons. Otero and his team believe the specimen excavated from the Candeleros Formation implies that larger titanosaurs coexisted with medium- and small-sized titanosaurs.
“These size differences could indeed explain the existence of such sauropod diversity in the Neuquén Basin during the Late Cretaceous in terms of niche partitioning,” they wrote.
The largest creature in known existence is the blue whale, measuring up to 110 feet in length. The largest land creatures are thought to have been the dinosaurs, of which the titanosaur is understood to reign supreme, size-wise.
In the absence of leg bones, experts are unable to estimate the recent Patagonian specimen’s living weight, reports CNN. The team has nonetheless posited that its body mass was likely comparable to that of a Patagotitan or even argentinosaurus, a 130-foot-long creature weighing up to 110 tons (12 times heavier than an African elephant).
While titanosaur fossils have been found on every continent except Antarctica, the largest multi-ton specimens have mostly been discovered in Patagonia.
Unearthing the remains of such an extremely large titanosaur, said Otero’s team, has contributed to a better understanding of the diversification of the species, “revealing the existence of a previously unknown lineage and shedding new light on body mass evolution.”
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