Has the largest dinosaur ever discovered been unearthed in Argentina?

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The skeleton is not complete, but the first elements analyzed suggest that the fossil remains discovered in 2012 in southwestern Argentina are those of the largest dinosaur ever unearthed, according to a study published Wednesday.

“What has been found so far are the first 24 vertebrae of the tail, parts of the pelvic girdle, the pectoral girdle,” said Alejandro Otero, lead author of the first paper on this titanosaur, a group of long-necked dinosaurs whose representatives can be found on all continents, published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research.

Mr Otero, however, explained that long bones such as the humerus or femur, which are traditionally used to make precise estimates of body mass, had not been extracted from the rock in which they are trapped.

But according to the first analyzes, the bones of this 98 million-year-old giant sauropod, dating from the Upper Cretaceous, would thus be “10 to 20% larger” than those of Patagotitan mayorum, the “Patagonian Titan”, the largest. dinosaur known to this day, explained the researcher to the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology of the Museum of La Plata, in a report published by the National University of La Matanza.

Discovered in 2017, also in Argentina, the Patagotitan mayorum weighed around 70 tonnes, or 10 African elephants, was around 40 meters long and had a very long neck.

The anatomical analysis carried out “does not currently allow us to consider it as a new species”, indicate the researchers in the report, “but the morphological disparity and the absence of equivalent elements compared to contemporary fossils also prevent us from attributing [les ossements] to genres already known ”, they underline.

The specimen was located almost by chance in 2012 in the middle of the valley of the Neuquén River, the most important watercourse in Argentinian Patagonia, but excavation work did not begin until 2015.

“It’s a beautiful specimen, because it’s practically jointed and we have more than half the tail, a lot of hip bones. Now it is still mostly buried in the rock and we still have some for a few years of excavation ”, declared José Luis Carballido, researcher who had directed the studies on the Patagotitan.

“We suspect that the specimen may be extracted complete or nearly complete. It will all depend on how the excavation proceeds. But beyond the fact that it is the largest or not, the fact that an articulated dinosaur appears, a dinosaur of these dimensions, is something extraordinary ”, rejoices Alberto Garrido, director of the Museum of Natural Sciences. of Zapala, in the province of Neuquén.

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