Hot News! RECORD-SMASHING titanosaur just discovered!

Posted by Nima On Saturday, May 17, 2014 30 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?




30 comments:

BrianL said...

I do marvel at the power of a flood that could lift and flush away such stupendous creatures.
I saw (or actually didn't see) you avoid mentioning *Amphicoelias*, but then Big *A.*, if real, would not be a contender for the title in terms of weight, probably.

All in all, I'd give an arm to be able to see such an enormous creature alive, breathing, eating and otherwise going about its daily business.

Petr said...

what about Puertasaurus?

Gray N Stanback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gray N Stanback said...

I just hope they give this thing a suitably magnificent name. No "person-o-saurus" or "place-o-saurus," please! Also, was it bigger than Puertasaurus and Alamosaurus?

Nima said...

@Brian

You're right, it would have to be a very big flood. The sandstone around the bones definitely looks like flood sediment (it's clearly not volcanic ash or marine sediment). These days we see seasonal floods in Africa and India and other tropical places, but for most of the mesozoic the climate was warmer and the floods would be much worse.

Amazing animals, no doubt. Curious to see more of this material, I have a strong hunch we're looking at a close relative of Futalognkosaurus here, but some vertebrae would definitely help get a positive ID.

Nima said...

@Petr

The new dinosaurs from Chubut are likely bigger than the single known specimen of Puertasaurus. But since there doesn't appear to be overlapping material (the new species is known mainly from limb bones, Puertasaurus from vertebrae) it's not easy to compare the two. The femurs are definitely larger than that of Argentinosaurus appears to be. Depending on the age of the bonebed, which has yet to be published, the new animals may even BE Puertasaurus. But if they're older than Maastrichtian epoch, they are probably something else.

If it's a new species I hope they find vertebrae too, so that it's possible to scale this species and see just how big it got.

Nima said...

@ Gray N Stanback

It does appear to be bigger than both Puertasaurus and Alamosaurus. However there's so little known from Puertasaurus and the biggest Alamosaurus specimens (you don't get 8 individuals all nicely piled up in one spot with those ones), so it may be a close call. But if you scale Puertasaurus based on my revised version, and scale Alamosaurus based on Scott Hartman's skeletals or the Perot museum mount, then yes these new finds are bigger.

Yes I agree, this animal should have a name befitting its impressive size and power. Dig deep, it won't be easy. A lot of the good ones are already taken by rather average-sized or even small sauropods thanks to some genius who couldn't tell a humerus from a radius, much less a macronarian from a diplodocid.

Gray N Stanback said...

It's a shame "Basilosaurus" is taken, and by a mammal of all things! With that in mind, my preferred name for this creature would be either Saurotheos superbus ("superb lizard god") or Brontotitan puertai("thundering giant of Puerta")

Nima said...

@ Gray N. Stanback

How about Gigantobasileus. That one's not taken. At least I don't think.

Richard Li said...

Hi Nima, I'm a general enthusiast of giant sauropods and have been following this blog for a while now though this comment is my first. The femur has been reported by some media outlets as 2.4 meters, this is actually slightly smaller than the Argentinosaurus femur reconstructed at 2.5 meters. It's not certain if it's the same femur as the one on the pallets but I just have this pessimistic feeling that once the paper is out this monster still turns out to be in the same league as Argentinosaurus and likely smaller than the giant Alamosaurus individuals found a few years ago. I hope to be wrong of course! BTW excellent blog.

Gray N Stanback said...

Where did you find that out. I'm pretty sure the photos show that the femur is bigger than that.

Nima said...

@ Richard Li

Thanks very much! Keep watching, there going to be a lot more great stuff coming out here. I think those media estimates are either (a) dead wrong, or (b) referring to one of the smaller femurs, not the "pallet crusher" specimen. A lot of media outlets don't know jack about dinosaurs, they often reported BANDit or SNAFU-ite fringe theories as if the entire field had changed course and adopted them - only to completely go the other way the next year. Well it's not the field that did that, it's pop-media companies that don't bother to investigate their sources and how robust and accepted the evidence behind them is.

@ Gray

You're right, it looks bigger, at least 2.7m - 2.9m long. Approaching 3m. The 2.4m figure may be one of the smaller femurs in the herd. I've heard 2.9m as the figure for the big one but none of the is verifiable until the paper is published... beyond the fact that Pablo Puerta looks about as tall as anyone else on the dig crew, probably 6ft or close to it. There may be even bigger ones that haven't been photographed yet. Keep in mind if my hypothesis about this being a lognkosaur is correct, it won't even matter if the femur is smaller than Argentinosaurus, it's still the biggest longkosaur femur we have seen... and since lognkosaurs are so fat and wide, it would still outweigh Argentinosaurus. However, those photos of Pablo and the femur are pretty convincing evidence that even Argentinosaurus has nothing on this monster.

Lyle Blosser said...

I'm excited to see the next update of your "Brachiosaur Parade" (2009)!

Richard Li said...

Just out of curiosity, what's the largest ornithopod? Those things could get quite monstrous too.

Gray N Stanback said...

The largest ornithopod was probably either "Lambeosaurus" laticaudus or Shantungosaurus, both of which were hadrosaurs that could weigh more than 10 tons--in other words, more than a small sauropod.

Anonymous said...

+Gray N Stanback basilosaurus was first thought to be a marine reptile thats why its taken by a mammal.i also want the name of this dinosaur to be something like ''brontotitan puertai''.i like brontotitan more than saurotheos.

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