Hot News! RECORD-SMASHING titanosaur just discovered!

Posted by Nima On Saturday, May 17, 2014 50 comments

News flash: we have a new biggest dinosaur.

Yes, I know you've got cause to be skeptical. Ever since a number of somewhat dubious contenders took the title from Brachiosaurus in the 80s, it's been very rare that something touted as "the biggest dinosaur" ends up keeping that title for long.

Not always because something bigger gets found a few years later, but because most of us are far too prone to exaggeration. Except, of course, when you speak of my talent as an artist and my knowledge of dinosaurs - then there can be no exaggeration no matter how hard you try :)

What noises our friends at SVP made upon seeing this, we are not at liberty to say!
But when it comes to fossils, scientists are often prone to exaggerating the size of their finds to make their reputations... which makes it even more remarkable that what you're about to see looks like the real deal. No more over-exaggerated wimp-o-sauruses. No more crazy sky-high estimates based on a handful of grainy photos, terrible hand drawings, and mysteriously lost fragments that nobody bothered to excavate for 30 years. No more "sort-of giants" that actually turn out to be a bit smaller and slimmer than what we knew before. What you're about to see is quite possibly the biggest dinosaur yet found, and the better news is that the evidence is very well-preserved, AND they found MORE than one of them.

Are you $&!##!^* me Private Pyle? That bloody thing out-jensens Jensen by at least half a meter!!!
Say hello to Pablo Puerta. That's the guy next to the bone, not what they named the dinosaur. You may have heard of him before... he's the namesake of the colossal Puertasaurus, which since 2005 has been (most likely) the largest dinosaur known from existing fossils, a very stout titanosaur that probably even outclassed Argentinosaurus. The literature originally named Puerta as a farmer, who along with a friend, Santiago Reuil, originally located the bones of Puertasaurus on a ranch in southern Argentina.

Well now apparently he's back, as mechanic and field engineer on Dr. Jose Luis Carballido's dig team. The site they found in Chubut Province is about as high-quality as you can hope for with these monster bones. And that femur is so huge (do I see three forklift pallets?!) as to put Jim Jensen's original "Ultrasauros" and Supersaurus scapula poses back in the 1980s to shame.

Of course this isn't all they found.

This is literally the first time that creatures so big have been found in a herd assemblage together. Apparently there were as many as 8 individuals discovered (this picture doesn't show the whole site). And we're talking about some of these femurs approaching 10ft. (3m) in length. This may really be the biggest dinosaur we have right now. I don't care how big you think Argentinosaurus is, there's no way that the missing ends of its femur shaft would have added enough length to make the bone 9-10 feet long. 8 feet maybe, but not 10. The giant Alamosaurus remains (the neck centrum found by Fowler and Sullivan and the tibia found in Mexico) may be in the same league as these new Chubut specimens. But almost nothing else is. Even Ruyangosaurus and the French Monster don't come close.

Femurs from different-sized individuals, all of them huge, some pubes and other hip elements (similar or even  larger than Futalognkosaurus, with the same tight pubic foramen).

Even the bulldozers start to look small.

A lot of stuff happened here. This spot probably had 3 or 4 of these giants literally get drowned on top of each other by a big flood.. All of the bones are very well-preserved, which is unusually rare for sauropod remains this big. Just to left of center, there's a large flat shoulder blade. The site appears to be mostly limb elements, can't see much in the way of vertebrae or ribs. But there might be some of those deeper down or in the surrounding rocks.
This femur looks a LOT like Traukutitan. That high lateral bulge, very angular.

This femur belongs to the "baby" of the group.

Dr. Carballido (right) and Pablo Puerta (left) with some of the smaller remains at the site
All of this material is impressive, and every bone appears intact and pristine. Complete femurs and hip bones, no mangled/crushed or incomplete fragments, no plaster inventions! This is literally a dream come true for any paleontologist, and the sort of breakthrough that hasn't been common since the 1800s.

More material remains to be found at the site. In fact we've seen other assemblages of well-preserved giant titanosaurs before, but in fewer numbers. One example is Lago Barreales, where the big Futalognkosaurus holotype and two smaller specimens were found in an ancient lake bed along with tons of other prehistoric ecosystem goodies.
This is some juvenile Futalognkosaurus material found in 2007, not the new record-breaking animal, though the shape and color of the bones is very similar. Notice the femur with its sharp lateral bulge, the pubis in the foreground, and at distant right an ilium lying sideways.
But nothing really conveys the size of the Chubut Monster like that huge pallet-crushing specimen.
Note the sharp angle of the lateral bulge, located high on the shaft just like in the smaller specimen. This is a classic lognkosaurian feature, both Futalognkosaurus and Traukutitan have it. So we may actually be dealing with a herd of Puertasaurus or another giant lognkosaurian. The bone bed's age, once calculated, may provide a clue. Only time will tell.
The Chubut giants are truly spectacular.

We've seen big bones like this before... just not as big. Take a good look at previous contenders for Mr. Dinoverse, because the new discoveries in Chubut province are about to make history.


Hopefully a description will be forthcoming soon (published as open-access, please!)... What are your thoughts on this amazing discovery?