January 15, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Argentina Hosted Largest Land Animal

A new skeleton of a sauropod may have broken the record for largest land animal that ever lived.

Photo above: a titanosaur skeleton on display in Argentina.

Dinosaur found in Argentina may be largest land animal ever (New Scientist). Argentinosaurus has been among the giants among giants. The prior record holder, Joshua Learn says, was named Patagotitan (think Patagonia titan). The new specimen, announced this week, may have taken the lead for size. Twenty-four vertebrae and some pelvis bones have been detected or excavated so far.

The fossils unearthed by the team, which was led by researchers at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, belong to an animal “considered one of the largest sauropods ever found, probably exceeding Patagotitan in size”, according to the peer-reviewed paper.

Scientists see some differences in this sauropod from other species, so they are calling this an unknown titanosaur. Titanosaurs are the largest dinosaurs that ever lived; thankfully, they were herbivores. The diagram shows Argentinosaurus towering over theropods in the T. rex class and over other sauropods that would have towered over humans.

Size comparison of known sauropods (Wiki Commons).

Here is a reference to the paper:

Otero et al., Report of a giant titanosaur sauropod from the Upper Cretaceous of Neuquén Province, Argentina. Cretaceous Research, 12 Jan 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2021.104754

One of the most fascinating research topics in the field of sauropod dinosaurs is the evolution of gigantism. In the particular case of Titanosauria, the record of multi-ton species (those exceeding 40 tons) comes mainly from Patagonia. 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. In this contribution we present a giant titanosaur sauropod from the Candeleros Formation (Cenomanian, circa 98 Ma) of Neuquén Province, composed of an articulated sequence of 20 most anterior plus 4 posterior caudal vertebrae and several appendicular bones. This specimen clearly proves the presence of a second taxon from Candeleros Formation, in addition to Andesaurus, and is here considered one of the largest sauropods ever found, probably exceeding Patagotitan in size.

Details of the burial of this giant beast were not mentioned in the New Scientist article nor in the Abstract of the paper. Most previous titanosaur fossils have been found in fragmentary condition. The fact that this specimen is “composed of an articulated sequence of 20 most anterior plus 4 posterior caudal vertebrae and several appendicular bones is significant. If vertebrae of such a large animal remained articulated (connected), it would indicate rapid burial without significant transport (compare 8 Jan 2021 story). That, in turn, would suggest lack of significant decay. Perhaps soft tissue remains will become evident as the bones are further processed.

The awesomeness of God’s creation extends from the tiny to the mighty. Think of what this animal’s size means from an engineering standpoint. What bones and muscles would be able to lift a head so high? What digestive system would be able to carry food from tall trees to be digested in the stomach? What mighty legs would be able to support such a beast? How was the tail designed to balance the neck? Everything had to be coordinated to allow this animal to stand and walk and live. Not only that, the proportions had to be maintained from birth to maturity.

Fossils of giant sauropods have been found around the world. The brachiosaur portrayed in the original Jurassic Park movie, standing up to reach tree tops, gives a visual picture of the engineering challenges involved in creating an animal this massive. Brachiosaurus was 69 feet long, weighing up to 64 tons; Patagotitan was 120 feet and 110 tons! Picture a dinosaur 70% larger than the one in the movie clip and marvel that such huge animals could even exist on this earth, let alone carry out a whole lifetime of walking, eating, mating, raising young, and interacting with other animals.

At the other end of the size spectrum, the awesomeness of creation is no less evident. From hummingbirds to butterflies to small insects and marine plankton, and all the way down to a cell and the molecular machines within the cell, there is no end of wonders to discover and try to understand. Truly, our God is an awesome God!

 

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