Saturday August 30, 2014

New find tops dinosaur big list


New dinosaurs, or new specimens of ones we already know, are found all the time. It has become so routine that rarely do they make the mainstream news anymore.

Last week was an exception when scientists from Argentina unveiled what may be the largest dinosaur that ever lived. This behemoth, a species of titanosaur, which lived in the forests of Patagonia approximately 90 million years ago, may have been up to 20 metres tall, 40 metres long and probably weighed in at a wopping 77 tonnes.

It is difficult to imagine such a beast, but some of the images that emerged with the discovery is telling. They show paleontologists lying next to and dwarfed by the animal’s thigh bone.

To put it in perspective, if you were to lay the City of Yorkton water tower (48 metres) on its side, this titanosaur from nose to tail would be just about as long.

It would have weighed more than NASAs (now retired) space shuttles.

It would take 14 African elephants, the current record-holder for largest living land animal to match this gargantuan creature.

Of course, records like this are made to be broken. Last week another group of scientists released a study that named Argentinosaurus, another species of titanosaur found in Argentina as the largest ever, but falls short of the new find by about seven tonnes.

The survey study explored all the extremes of dinosaur world. Tyrannosaurus rex retained the title of largest ever predator. The claim had been made that another massive raptor called Gigantosaurus, which lived alongside Argentinosaurus, had surpassed T. rex, but the current research puts Gigantosaurus at about six tonnes, one tonne less.

It is also probably safe to say, although I don’t have quantitative data to back it up, that T. rex remains the world’s most famous dinosaur.

The tiniest known dinosaur is Qilinia, a sparrow-sized animal that lived in China 120 million years ago estimated to have weighed about 15 grams, six million times smaller than Argentinosaurus.

The current count of identified dinosaur species is more than a thousand—not counting birds, their living descendants —and all that have complete enough skeletons to be accurately estimated were included in the study.

As big as the latest titanosaur is, however, it still pales in comparison to the largest ever on land or sea. That distinction goes to the blue whale.

Although the new titanosaur is significantly longer (about 10 metres) it is a lightweight in comparison. Blue whales can get up to about 170 tonnes, two-and-a-half times heavier.

Now that’s a hefty beast.



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