Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Pic Paleontologists at Ohio Uni have unearthed the partial skeleton of an entirely new species of titanosaur – the massive herbivores that were the largest animals ever to walk on the planet which is nowadays ours.
"Looks like Derek ate a bad shrub. You OK, mate?"
The new specimen, Rukwatitan bisepultus, was found in a quarry in Tanzania's Rukwa Rift Basin. The team managed to recover vertebrae, ribs, pelvic bones, and – crucially – a nearly complete set of leg bones that allows the boffins to work out exactly how large the specimen would have been.
Paleontologists think Argentinosaurus was the world's largest titanosaur, but that's difficult to measure as there are only a few fragmentary remains and no complete limbs. Dreadnoughtus schrani, which was first described last week, is a more complete skeleton and may have been larger.
Missing a lot of bones, but the team has found the important stuff
Rukwatitan is smaller than both of these species, but not by much. The fossilized creature had legs more than two metres tall, and is thought to have weighed as much as several adult elephants. The titanosaur lived in what is now Africa about 100 million years ago, and it differs from other sauropods found on the continent.
"There may have been certain environmental features, such as deserts, large waterways and/or mountain ranges, that would have limited the movement of animals and promoted the evolution of regionally distinct faunas," said Patrick O'Connor, a professor of anatomy in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. "Only additional data on the faunas and paleo environments from around the continent will let us further test such hypotheses."
The team has now published its results in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. ®