New, strange, and HUGE titanosaurs!

Posted by Nima On Wednesday, February 16, 2011 4 comments

While everyone's busy preparing for Europasaurus month and the International dinosaur illustration contest in Spain, here's a heads up on some new titanosaur discoveries.

Traukutitan - a new midsize to large titanosaur, probably a Lognkosaur. Read the paper HERE.

It's not breaking any size records, but still, that is one seriously big femur. And gorgeous too, the thing's almost perfectly preserved.

Tapuiasaurus - a rather small titanosaur from Brazil, tapuiasaurus is the oldest known member of nemegtosauridae, dating all the way back to the Albian epoch of the Early Cretaceous. That's a pretty big deal, because up until now it was believed nemegtosaurs only emerged at the end of the Late Cretaceous. Since nemegtosaurs are pretty much the most advanced titanosaur family known, that means all the other more primitive families are probably even OLDER than the Albian (and most of them are only known from Late Cretaceous species too!) This amazing specimen has a complete skull and hyoid (throat) bones, not to mention explaining the whole crazy defiance-of-continental-drift problem previously present in the nemegtosaurid fossil record. Interestingly, the skull is "bleached white", much like remains of its Mongolian relatives... probably has to do with the sediment mineral content. Read the paper HERE.

Lastly, there's a huge new specimen of a titanosaur that's been known for a long time - Alamosaurus. This sole sauropod of the North American Maastrichtian age is known from several juvenile and adolescent specimens of different ages and sizes, and it was long thought that the adults were around 50 ft. long.... until a specimen popped up a few years ago that was more like 80 ft. long. So that must be the full grown adult? NO. Now there's a specimen whose neck vertebrae were apparently just as big as those of Puertasaurus. Which means - yeah, we're looking at an Alamosaurus that topped 100 feet. Easily the biggest titanosaur of the northern hemisphere. And one of the three or four biggest dinosaurs of all time, by the looks of it. Read the paper HERE.

Here's a scale diagram of the Alamosaurus neck fragment on top, and the 9th neck vertebra of Puertasaurus below. At right is a femur from a smaller (though still gigantic) individual of Alamosaurus. Is the new giant specimen finally an adult? I'd think so, but wait until the next one turns up!

And on an unrelated note, there are rumors that a new planet may have been found in the deep reaches of the solar system. And it's downright huge. All you 2012 conspiracy buffs probably don't need to hold your breath though. It will take two years to sift through the data, which may or may not prove the existence of this theoretical "Planet X". And it's not going to be anywhere near us next year, assuming it exists. We're talking about an orbit 15,000 times farther from the sun than we are, for a planet that's too far away to see or even be lit by the sun, at least in visible wavelengths. Still, finding a new planet out there would rock, no question.


Dean said...

Looks like America may still have a chance to claim the title of world's largest dinosaur, other than Amphicoelias of course. Now all we have to do is get some dedicated paleontologists to go dig up the rest of them! :)

BTW... What are your thoughts on the size of the new Alamosaur, weight, height, length?

Nima said...

Well the new Alamosaurus is undoubtedly huge. The fossil material is very fragmentary. The neck, based on the enlarged outline of the vertebra in the paper, has a greater circumference than that of Puertasaurus, but may be shorter. Of course, the Alamosaurus neck fragment may be from lower down in the neck than the Puertasaurus neck vertebra so this could be deceptive.

The new Alamosaurus is probably 110 ft. long at least (Argentinosaurus size) and probably shorter than Puertasaurus (which could be from 120-135 ft. long). Mass would be comparable to both animals (in the range of 80-100 tons). So in my view it could be bigger than Argentinosaurus and smaller than Puertasaurus. But pretty close to both animals.

At this point it's hard to say which titanosaur was the biggest, since the Alamosaurus specimen is so incomplete and we don't know how the proportions of this adult differed from smaller specimens. It could have gone through some subtle, but still significant, ontegentic changes that could made that critical difference in its length, volume, mass, etc. to tell who really was the "biggest".

Dean said...

I love seeing new titanosaur material, hopefully all the lime light will help get these animals the attention they deserve.

-Perhaps T-rex didn't have such an easy time taking down Alamosaurs!

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