What you need to know about the biggest dinosaur ever discovered

9 Aug 2017

Argentinosaurus, the previous ‘largest dinosaur ever’. Image: David Roland/Shutterstock

Patagotitan mayorum has taken the title of largest dinosaur ever, but what do you need to know about the newly studied titanosaur?

Picture the scene in Jurassic Park: Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum are being given their first tour of the park. The jeeps they’re in crest a hill and come to a stop. Their awestruck gazes turn to something off screen. The music soars, and we’re treated to our first majestic glimpse of a dinosaur – the brachiosaurus. It’s a powerful moment.

Now imagine the dinosaur they had seen was much, much bigger.

The newly named Patagotitan mayorum is now the largest known dinosaur in existence, and the largest animal to ever walk on land. It dwarfs the brachiosaurus.

First discovered in the Patagonia region of southern Argentina in 2012, Patagotitan mayorum was the subject of a recent study in Proceedings of the Royal Society Bfocused on describing the behemoth’s fossil.

The dinosaur was a titanosaur – a type of sauropod – weighing in at 69 metric tonnes, equivalent to roughly 12 adult African elephants.

The plant-eater was 37 metres long (2.5 double-decker buses) and 6 metres tall at the shoulder (not including the dinosaur’s neck, therefore, it stood as tall as 1.5 double-decker buses).

The fossil is dated to about 100m years ago, placing it squarely in the Cretaceous period (meaning that, sadly, it could never have crossed paths with the aforementioned brachiosaurus, or featured in Jurassic Park).

Patagotitan mayorum is named for the region in which it was discovered (Patagonia), the Greek word titan (which means large), and the Mayo family, who first found the fossil.

A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is on display at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. It is so large that its head sticks out into one of the museum’s hallways.

Patagotitan mayorum officially steals the crown of ‘largest dinosaur ever’ from the previous holder, Argentinosaurus, discovered in Argentina in 1987.

According to Kristi Curry Rogers – a palaeontologist who was not involved in the study, but who spoke to Phys.org about its results – Patagotitan’s bones indicate that the dinosaur had not finished growing, possibly meaning “that there are even bigger dinosaurs out there to discover”.

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic