The fossilized remains of a colossal dinosaur discovered in Argentina marks the most complete skeleton of a titanosaur ever unearthed. The long-necked and herbivorous Dreadnoughtus schrani, whose name means “fears nothing,” measured 85 feet (26 meters) in length from the tip of its small head to the end of its tail and weighed 65 tons – about seven times heavier than Tyrannosaurus rex, said Drexel University paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, who led the excavation.
"Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge," Lacovara said in a statement. “It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet.”
Researchers discovered the massive skeleton of Dreadnoughtus in 2005 and have spent several years carefully excavating and analyzing its remains. The frame of Dreadnoughtus was surprisingly complete; over 70 percent of the specimen’s bones were recovered from the site in Argentina’s Patagonian hills. The previous record holder for most preserved titanosaur was only about 27 percent complete.
Scientists estimate the fossils are between 75 million and 77 million years old, according to a study released Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. Dreadnoughtus probably died after it was swept away by a flooded river and buried in quicksand-like sediment – a sad finale for one of the greatest beasts that ever lived, but a blessing for scientists thanks to the remarkable preservation it afforded.
The four-legged behemoth belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as titanosaurs that were some of the largest creatures ever to roam the earth. Its tail was a whopping 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and was extremely muscular and powerful, capable of felling even the baddest of dinosaurs like the infamous T. rex, Lacovara said.
“This is the kind of creature that will soon make it into Hollywood,” Luis Chiappe, Director of the National History Museum of Los Angeles's Dinosaur Institute, who was not involved in the research, told Washington Post. “You can guarantee that the next documentary on dinosaurs will feature this new creature.”
However, like the mythical Titans of Ancient Greece, even the mighty Dreadnoughtus had its weaknesses. Based on its enormous size and the width and strength of its frame, falling over would have certainly spelled death for the great but inelegant dinosaur.
There is still much to be learned from the impressive Dreadnoughtus. Scientists have created 3D models of the bones using laser-scanners that they hope will offer new insights into how these late Jurassic period giants evolved and moved. "If you're interested in super gigantic animals, this is probably the one you want to work on," Paul Upchurch of University College London told the Associated Press.