After crashing through the forests of Patagonia some 100 million years ago, researchers have finally been able to finish the first study looking into Patagotitan mayorum, the largest animal ever to have walked the land.
The massive size of terrestrial animals has been something of a quandary, with researchers unsure how or why they would grow to such dimensions. But this new paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, may offer up some clues.
Actually discovered way back in 2014, the excessive size of the beast alone meant that it has taken this long for researchers to finally complete an in-depth study of the behemoth, in which they have finally given it a name. Now officially known as Patagotitan mayorum, the massive dinosaur is thought to have been among the largest dinosaurs to have ever walked the Earth.
The animal would have averaged 37 meters long (122 feet) and weighed up to 69 tonnes (76 tons), or around one space shuttle, or nine elephants, if those are your units. This means that while the dinosaur would have thrashed the mighty blue whale on length, the terrestrial beast would still have lost out on weight, meaning that the giant cetacean still retains its crown as the largest animal ever to have lived.
The researchers uncovered the remains of what are thought to be six or seven young adult dinosaurs in Argentina. The fossils include partial skeletons that add up to around 150 bones in total, including enormous ribs, vertebrae, and femurs that dwarf an adult human.
The goliath is thought to have stomped through the forests of the Cretaceous period some 100 million years ago, and the scientists studying the dinosaur think this may offer up some clues as to how and why it grew to such a monstrous size. “They were probably massive big slow-moving animals,” said Diego Pol, who co-authored the research of the titanosaur. “Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It's really challenging for large animals.”
They think that during this period of time in Patagonia, there was an explosion in the diversity of flowering plants, which had just come onto the evolutionary scene. This, says Pol, would have been like an “All-you-can-eat buffet” for any titanosaurs around at the time, and they just simply got bigger and bigger.
And the bigger they got, the less they had to worry about predators. Even though the fearsome Tyranosaurus rex was stalking the world around the same time as P. mayorum, the giant plant eater would have dwarfed the theropod. “It's like when you put an elephant by a lion,” Pol explained.
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