Dinosaur Fossils Found in Argentina Could Belong to Largest Creature Ever to Have Walked the Earth

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Artist’s impression of an Argentinosaurus (Getty)

Titanosaur in Patagonia ‘probably exceeds’ largest known land animal, paleontologists say.

A new and gigantic dinosaur which could rival the largest known species is being unearthed in Argentina.

A collection of bones found in Neuquén Province in northwest Patagonia have been identified as those from the sauropod family of dinosaurs, which had immensely long necks and tails, pillar-like legs, and includes species that grew to the largest sizes of land animals known to have ever existed.

The creature (pictured) is believed to be a titanosaur, one of the largest sauropods — a clade of dinosaurs characterised by their vast size, pillar-like legs and elongated necks and tails

However, the remains are not a complete skeleton, and consist mainly of pelvic bones and vertebrae, only giving an indication of the enormous scale of the animal.

The authors of a paper presenting the research on the find published in the journal Cretaceous Research suggest the animal could come from a previously unknown population of Patagonian sauropods.

The closest relative is Andesaurus, a type of “super-sized titanosaur” which existed during the middle of the Cretaceous Period in South America. These large sauropods grew to be 18 metres long.

The fossilised remains (pictured here being prepared for extraction from the field) were found in layers of rock that the geologists refer to as the 'Candeleros Formation' — and more specifically in a level that is though to represent the deposits from a muddy floodplain

However, the fossilised bone fragments indicate the new titanosaur was far larger, easily exceeding Andesaurus in size and likely making it bigger then the largest known land animals, the Patagotitan and Argentinosaurus - both types of sauropods.

The new specimen is “considered one of the largest sauropods ever found, probably exceeding Patagotitan in size”, the authors said.

The fossilised bones (pictured) of a dinosaur unearthed in Argentina that would have stomped the earth 98 million years ago may have been the largest land animal ever

Patagotitan was only announced by paleontologists in 2014, after the first bones were uncovered in Patagonia in 2013. It is believed to have weighed almost 60 tonnes, reached lengths of over 31 metres and at the time, experts said: “Given the size of these bones, which surpass any of the previously known giant animals, the new dinosaur is the largest animal known that walked on Earth.”

Unlike other remains excavated from the formation, this specimen — which has been designated 'MOZ-Pv 1221' — remained largely articulated, suggesting that more of the skeleton will likely be uncovered in the same spot as the dig progressed. Pictured, an artist's impression of MOZ-Pv 1221 and — beneath it — two other sauropods from the same location, Limaysaurus (left) and Andesaurus (right)

The researchers said: “The record of super-sized titanosaur sauropods has traditionally been extremely fragmentary, although recent discoveries of more complete taxa have revealed significant anatomical information previously unavailable due to preservation biases.”

The find provides paleontologists with a greater understanding of the emergence of gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, how they evolved, and how they lived.

It appears numerous sauropod species lived alongside one another, suggesting they occupied different roles in the food web, the scientists said.

“The specimen here reported strongly suggests the co-existence of the largest and middle-sized titanosaurs with small-sized rebbachisaurids (a family of sauropod dinosaurs) at the beginning of the Late Cretaceous in Neuquén Province, indicating putative niche partitioning.”

Sauropod dinosaurs were once widespread, and fossilised remains have been found on every continent on Earth, including Antarctica.

 Because of the partial nature of the find so far, the researchers said that it has not yet been possible to estimate how much MOZ-Pv 1221 would likely have weighed in life. Pictured, an artist's impression of the specimen's silhouette, showing the bones uncovered so far

When early paleontologists first studied the bones of these enormous dinosaurs during the Victorian period, it was commonly thought that due to their size sauropod species were largely water-dwelling animals, however, later research revealed the adaptations which allowed these huge creatures to live on land. These include a system of air sacs, the existence of which are indicated by indentations and cavities in most of the vertebrae, and pneumatic, hollow bones, similar to those of present day birds, which made their huge limbs lighter.

According to the researchers, the Neuquén Province would have been home to numerous sauropod species 98 million years ago — each of which would have occupied a different role, or 'niche', in the ecosystem and food web. Pictured, the team extracts the fossilised remains

The largest animal ever to have existed remains the blue whale, which can reach maximum sizes of 33.5 metres long and weigh 173 tonnes.

Source: www.independent.co.uk/