Ar­gen­tine di­nosaur may shed light on huge beasts

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

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.

AP Photo/Jac­que­line Larma

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.

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