Dreadnoughtus is a genus of giant titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur containing a single species, Dreadnoughtus schrani. D. schrani is known from two partial skeletons discovered in Upper Cretaceous (Campanian-Maastrichtian; 84–66 Ma) rocks of the Cerro Fortaleza Formation in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. It is one of the largest of all known terrestrial vertebrates, possessing the greatest mass of any land animal that can be calculated with reasonable certainty. D. schrani is known from a more complete skeleton than any other gigantic titanosaurian.
Dreadnoughtus means “fearing nothing.” It’s a fitting name for the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The beast measures 26 metres from nose to tail and weighs 59,300 kg (about the weight of 12 African elephants).
Based on a cladistic analysis, Dreadnoughtus schrani appears to be a “derived” basal titanosaur that is not quite a lithostrotian. Lacovara et al. (2014) note that because of the wide array of relatively “advanced” and “primitive” features in the skeleton of Dreadnoughtus schrani and the current instability of titanosaurian interrelationships, future analyses may find widely differing positions for it within Titanosauria.
The illustration below compares the size of Dreadnoughtus to a moose, an African elephant, other dinosaurs and a Boeing airplane.
Why name it “Dreadnoughtus”?
Dr. Kenneth Lacovara of Drexel University, the paleontologist who discovered the massive beast, decided to name the dinosaur after the early 20th century dreadnought battleships. Nothing stood in the way of those seafaring monsters. Look at the size of them:
How was Dreadnoughtus discovered?
In 2005, Dr. Lacovara found a small collection of bones in South Patagonia, Argentina.
Over the next four years, he and his team, plus Argentinian experts, excavated more than 100 bone fragments. (The bones were well-preserved as the dinosaur seemingly drowned in quicksand.) For the first time ever, paleontologists are able to examine an almost complete dinosaur skeleton.
Dr. Lacovara and his team scanned the bones to make a computerized reconstruction of how Dreadnoughtus looked and moved. They also are using 3D printers to print out models of the bones. One of the most amazing discoveries is that Dreadnoughtus hadn’t finished growing! Who knows how big it would have gotten?
Dr. Lacovara published his research on September 4, 2014, in the Scientific Reports journal, almost ten years after his first discovery.