New dinosaur species is largest on record

P. mayorum lived roughly 101 million years ago during the Cretaceous period and belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as titanosaurs.
By Vicky Webb | Aug 11, 2017
Researchers working in Argentina in 2013 uncovered the largest dinosaur to ever walk the Earth. Now, the ancient giant finally has a name.

Scientists from the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio in Argentina have dubbed the 70 ton, 120-foot-long speciesPatagotitan mayorum. The bones of the massive creature -- which were first discovered by a shepherd tending to his sheep -- took two weeks to unearth. Though the remains proved to be smaller than originally thought, they are still weigh twice as much as the bones from any other dinosaur species and are 10 percent larger than Argentinosaurus -- the second largest dinosaur on record.

P. mayorum lived roughly 101 million years ago during the Cretaceous period and belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as titanosaurs. They were the last-surviving sauropods, and the new species appears to be the biggest of them by a wide margin.

"Even taking into account the uncertainty of those methods [for estimating body mass], Patagotitan comes out as a 60- to 80-ton behemoth," said John Hutchinson, a researcher at the Royal Veterinary College who was not involved in the study, according to Tech Times. "And nothing else we know of yet comes very close."

To make the new discovery, researchers used two methods to estimate the prehistoric reptile's size. The first was an equation that approximated mass based on the dinosaur's femur and humerus, and the second was a calculation of volume based on a 3D model of the skeleton.

Nobody is sure yet what caused the beast to become so large, but most scientists believe a "major event" likely led to the growth. Huge titanosaurs only existed in Patagonia, which suggests there were certain resources that only existed in that area.However, there is also a chance that the body mass grew as a form of protection to fend off larger predators.

"I don't think they were scary at all," said study co-author Diego Pol, a researcher at the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Argentina, according to TIME. Pol said. "They were probably massive big slow-moving animals. Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It's really challenging for large animals."

Either way, the new finding is important because it helps researchers better understand dinosaur shape and size. The more information they have on skeleton shape, the more they can understand key parts of the ancient reptiles, such as their metabolism, behavior, and the way the species shifted over time.

The findings were detailed in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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