A team of scientists from Drexel University just discovered the largest dinosaur that ever lived – a creature seven times bigger than the legendary predator Tyrannosaurus Rex. The super-dino, called Dreadnoughtus, is believed to have been 85 feet (26 m) long and weighed about 65 tons (59,300 kg). Over 70% of a complete skeleton has been found, which gives researchers a a unique opportunity to explore how these massive creatures lived.
“Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge,” said Kenneth Lacovara, PhD, an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, who discovered the skeleton in southern Patagonia in Argentina. “It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex. Shockingly, skeletal evidence shows that when this 65-ton specimen died, it was not yet full grown. It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet.”
Dreadnoughtus was a massive herbivour and belongs to a group of large plant eaters known as titanosaurs. “Titanosaurs are a remarkable group of dinosaurs, with species ranging from the weight of a cow to the weight of a sperm whale or more. But the biggest titanosaurs have remained a mystery, because, in almost all cases, their fossils are very incomplete,” said Matthew Lamanna, PhD at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
However the team was lucky enough to find a femur and humerus, which are the ‘gold standard’ for calculating the mass of quadrupeds. As the Dreadnoughtus specimen includes both these bones, its weight can be estimated with confidence. Prior to the description of the 65-ton Dreadnoughtus schrani, another Patagonian giant, Elaltitan, held the title of the heaviest dinosaur at 47 tons, based on a recent study.
“With a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail, Dreadnoughtus would have feared nothing,” Lacovara said. “That evokes to me a class of turn-of-the-last century battleships called the dreadnoughts, which were huge, thickly clad and virtually impervious.”
Of course, to be as big as it was, Dreadnaughtus would have lived to eat! “Imagine a life-long obsession with eating,” Lacovara said, describing the potential lifestyle of Dreadnoughtus. “Every day is about taking in enough calories to nourish this house-sized body. I imagine their day consists largely of standing in one place.”
“You have this 37-foot-long neck balanced by a 30-foot-long tail in the back. Without moving your legs, you have access to a giant feeding envelope of trees and fern leaves. You spend an hour or so clearing out this patch that has thousands of calories in it, and then you take three steps over to the right and spend the next hour clearing out that patch.” What a way to live!