Argentine dinosaur may shed light on huge beasts
NEW YORK (AP) — Researchers studying the remains of an enormous dinosaur — a creature that was bigger than seven bull elephants — have given it an equally colossal name: Dreadnoughtus, or “fearing nothing.”
Scientists hope its unusually well-preserved bones will help reveal secrets about some of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth.
The four-legged beast, with a long neck and powerful 29-foot tail, stretched about 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons. That’s more than seven times the weight of even a plus-size male African elephant.
Kenneth Lacovara of Drexel University in Philadelphia, who found the specimen in Argentina’s southern Patagonia in 2005, said he can’t claim it was the most massive dinosaur known, because the remains of comparably sized beasts are too fragmentary to allow a direct comparison.
But it’s the heaviest land animal whose weight during life can be calculated directly with a standard technique that analyzes bones of the upper limbs, he said. And its bones indicate it was still growing when it died.
Lacovara and colleagues describe the plant-eating behemoth in a study released Thursday by the journal Scientific Reports. He said the bones were probably around 75 million to 77 million years old.
The creature got some media attention in 2009 when its excavated remains arrived in a large shipping container at a pier in Philadelphia. Since then, Lacorvara and colleagues have created computerized 3D reconstruction of the bones, and have started making miniaturized physical models of parts of the skeleton to investigate how the animal moved.
The bones will be returned next year to Argentina, where they will be housed permanently at a museum, researchers said.
In the new paper, the researchers named the beast Dreadnoughtus schrani; the second name refers to an American entrepreneur who supported the research. It belongs to a poorly understood group of dinosaurs called titanosaurs.
In this Aug. 26, 2014 photo, Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara works in a lab near vertebrae from a Dreadnaughtus schrani at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The immense dinosaur from Patagonia is slated to be introduced to the scientific community Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Scientists hope its unusually well-preserved bones will help reveal secrets about some of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth. The four-legged beast with a long neck and tail weighed an estimated 65 tons and stretched about 85 feet long.