Meet the new heavy­weight di­nosaur cham­pion: Patagoti­tan

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A study pro­claims a newly named species the heavy­weight cham­pion of all di­nosaurs, mak­ing the scary Tyran­nosaurus rex look like a munchkin. At 76 tons, the plant-eat­ing be­he­moth was as heavy as a space shut­tle. The di­nosaur’s fos­sils were found in south­ern Ar­gentina in 2012. Re­searchers who ex­am­ined and dated them said the long-necked crea­ture was the big­gest of a group of large di­nosaurs called ti­tanosaurs.

“There was one small part of the fam­ily that went crazy on size,” said Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio pa­le­on­tol­ogy mu­seum in Ar­gentina, coau­thor of the study pub­lished Tues­day in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Royal So­ci­ety B. The re­searchers named the di­nosaur Patagoti­tan may­o­rum af­ter the Patag­o­nia re­gion where it was found and the Greek word ti­tan, which means large. The sec­ond name honors a ranch fam­ily that hosted the re­searchers. Six fos­sils of the species were stud­ied and dated to about 100 mil­lion years ago, based on ash found around them, Pol said. The di­nosaur av­er­aged 122 feet long and was nearly 20 feet high at the shoul­der. A cast of the di­nosaur’s skele­ton is al­ready on dis­play at the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory. It’s so big that the di­nosaur’s head sticks out into a hall­way at the New York mu­seum. Leg­endary T. rex and other meat-eaters “look like dwarfs when you put them against one of these gi­ant ti­tanosaurs,” Pol said. “It’s like when you put an ele­phant by a lion.”

Sci­en­tists have known ti­tanosaurs for a while, but this is a new species and even a new genus, which is a larger group­ing, Pol said. An­other ti­tanosaur called Ar­genti­nosaurus was pre­vi­ously thought to be the largest. “I don’t think they were scary at all,” Pol said. “They were prob­a­bly mas­sive big slow-mov­ing an­i­mals.” “Get­ting up. Walk­ing around. Try­ing to run. It’s re­ally chal­leng­ing for large an­i­mals,” he said. The big ques­tion is how did these di­nosaurs get so big, Pol said. Re­searchers are still study­ing it, but said it prob­a­bly has to do with an ex­plo­sion of flow­er­ing plants at the time.

Along with a for­est, it was like an all-you-caneat buf­fet for these di­nosaurs and they just got big­ger. “It’s hard to ar­gue this isn’t a big deal when it con­cerns the (prob­a­ble) largest land an­i­mal ever dis­cov­ered,” Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land pa­le­on­tol­o­gist Thomas Holtz, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email. Kristi Curry Rodgers, a pa­le­on­tol­o­gist at Ma­calester Col­lege who wasn’t part of the study, praised the work as im­por­tant. She said the fact that Patagoti­tan’s bones show signs that they haven’t com­pleted their growth “means that there are even big­ger di­nosaurs out there to dis­cover.”—AP

NEW YORK: This file photo shows vis­i­tors to the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory ex­am­in­ing a replica of a 122-foot-long di­nosaur on dis­play at the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory in New York. —AP

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