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Drexel University, Youtube

Humongous New Dinosaur Discovered in Patagonia

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Drexel University, Youtube

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dreadnoughtus schrani, a newfound giant which—thanks to an amazing skeleton—can help us better understand some of the biggest dinosaurs that ever lived.

The species’ discovery was recently announced by an international fossil-hunting team, which excavated two specimens—including one that was unusually complete. A resident of modern-day Patagonia, this animal was roughly 86 feet in length and weighed an estimated 65 tons. At that size, Dreadnoughtus likely had few natural enemies when fully grown. Appropriately, therefore, its genus name literally means “fears nothing.”

Remember the Titanosaurs

Extra-large dinosaurs are nothing new in South America. Earlier this year, an eight-foot upper arm bone belonging to some huge herbivore was spotted in the vicinity of La Flecha, Argentina. Also, nearly man-sized backbones from a colossal creature called Argentinosaurus have been popping up since the 1980s.

Argentinosaurus and Dreadnoughtus are both classified as “titanosaurs”: a group of long-necked plant-eaters which started evolving during the early Cretaceous period around 100 million years ago. “Titanosaurs are… [remarkable] dinosaurs,” says Carnegie Museum of Natural History paleontologist Matthew Lamanna, “with species ranging from the weight of a cow to the weight of a sperm whale or more.”

Yet, larger titanosaur varieties usually haven’t been well-represented in the fossil record. Instead, amazing dinos like Argentinosaurus are largely known from scrappy material and isolated fragments.

But what makes the recent Dreadnoughtus discovery so exciting is the fact that nearly half (43%) of one skeleton has been recovered. For experts, this presents some exciting research possibilities.

Going Out on a Limb

Weighing a dinosaur is no simple task. Reimagining muscle mass is particularly tricky: when you’ve only got some skeletal remains to work with, it’s sometimes difficult to assess how slender or bulky their owner was.

However, limb anatomy can help point us in the right direction, especially when dealing with four-legged creatures like Dreadnoughtus. This new skeleton includes a humerus (“funny bone”) and femur (“thigh bone”), allowing paleontologists to take critical measurements designed to help ascertain how much heft these bones supported in everyday life. Therefore, Dreadnoughtus’ weight is, theoretically, far more calculable than that of most plus-sized titanosaurs.

So, Was this the Biggest. Dinosaur. Ever?

It’s far too early to say. Ultimately, we may never know for sure. As mentioned earlier, dinosaurian behemoths don’t tend to fossilize very completely. Ergo, adequate length and mass measurements are often impossible.

Consider, for example, a mysterious species called Amphicoelias altus. To date, this beast’s existence is evidenced by a single vertebrae, which went missing after its discovery and remains unaccounted for. By comparing the fossil’s size to that of a corresponding bone in its smaller relative Diplodocus, some researchers have claimed that Amphicoelias could’ve been over 190 feet long! However, in the absence of any complete Amphicoelias skeletons, we can neither confirm nor deny these speculations or start comparing it with other jumbo dinos.

Nevertheless, one thing is quite certain: in their heyday, Dreadnoughtus and its kin must’ve been a spectacular sight to see.

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Tyrannosaurus and Edmontosaurus, Ely Kish, c. 1976. © Canadian Museum of Nature
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10 Ways Artists Imagined Dinosaurs Before the 21st Century
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In paleoart, “the lines between entertainment and science, kitsch and scholarship, are often vague," Ford writes in the preface to Paleoart. "This book is like a twofold time machine from a science-fiction comic i would have loved as a child. It allows us to go back in time to see what going back in time used to look like.”

Tyrannosaurus and Edmontosaurus, Ely Kish, c. 1976. © Canadian Museum of Nature

Paleoart: Visions of the Prehistoric Past explores the first 160 years of illustrating extinct species.

Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former World War II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]


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