Friday, September 5, 2014

"Astoundingly huge" dinosaur skeleton unearthed


Scientists have unearthed the skeleton of a previously unknown, massive dinosaur species that may be the largest land animal ever found.

The specimen named Dreadnoughtus schrani is exceptionally complete, with about 70 percent of its bones recovered. Scientists believe the creature, which lived about 77 million years ago, measured 85 feet (26 meters) long and weighed about 65 tons, heavier than a Boeing 737.

Previously discovered "super-massive" dinosaurs are known only from fragmentary fossils, and therefore the new skeleton provides researchers with a unique opportunity to learn about the anatomy and evolutionary history of one of the largest animals that ever lived.

The researchers excavated the fossil in southern Patagonia, Argentina, over four field seasons between 2005 and 2009. A smaller specimen of the same species with a less-complete skeleton was also discovered at the site.

"Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge," said study author Kenneth Lacovara, an associate professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who discovered the Dreadnoughtus fossil skeleton and led the excavation and analysis. "It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex."

Moreover, the researchers believe that when this 65-ton animal died, it was not even done growing.

"It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet," Lacovara said.

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