For anyone who was ever as obsessed with dinosaurs as I was and made them roam the living room carpet (much to your parents' dismay), the Tyrannosaurus was probably your monster piece of prehistoric plastic—but this newly discovered leviathan makes even T-Rex look like a common lizard.
Patagotitan mayorum had more vertebrae in its neck than syllables in its name, and at 76 tons weighed about as much as your average space shuttle. The huge herbivore that was discovered in the Patagonia region of southern Argentina is the largest of a group of dinosaurs already enormous enough to be called titanosaurs. Even then, the paleontologists who recently published a study on the 100-million-year-old fossils they unearthed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B believe some branch of dino DNA apparently went insane when it came to the size of this thing.
Titanosaurs are nothing new. It’s this particular species, which could possibly even mean a new genus, that has shifted previous heavyweight Argentinosaurs into second place. Based on the six fossils found and the ash they emerged from, P. mayorum is thought to have been about 122 feet long and hovering around 20 feet high at the shoulder. That doesn’t count how far it could stretch its immense neck.
To get an idea of exactly how microbial T. Rex looks like next to this titanosaur, Jurassic Park’s favorite predator was a mere third of its length and only as tall as its shoulder. If you’re anywhere near New York City, the cast of this creature’s skeleton on display there is so big that its head sticks out into the hallway. The only place T-Rex did have the plant-eating behemoth beat was in its ferocity.
"I don't think they were scary at all," said paleontologist and study co-author Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio museum in Argentina. "They were probably massive big slow-moving animals."
So how did P. mayorum get so gargantuan? The never-ending bloom of flowering plants where it lived probably had something to do with it, seeing how it served as an all-hours buffet. Because you probably wouldn’t want to be stomped on by a walking skyscraper if you were a smaller prehistoric animal scrounging for plants to eat, the titanosaur could also thank its size for the lack of competition that led to its gigantism. The beast's bones hadn’t even completed their growth. Meaning there could be something even more titanic buried under layers of time.
“Although recent findings have improved our knowledge on giant titanosaur anatomy, there are still many unknown aspects about their evolution,” said Pol and colleagues in the study, “especially for the most gigantic forms and the evolution of body mass.”
Dinosaur fans of all ages will now be eagerly awaiting the plastic version.