Researchers have described the biggest ever dinosaur to have been found in Brazil, after analyzing a set of fossil vertebrae that had been sitting in a cupboard for more than half a century.
The dinosaur, which has been rather grandly named Austroposeidon magnificus, would have reached 25 meters (82 feet) in length when it stomped around the landscape some 66 million years ago. All that remains of the beast now is a few of its neck vertebrae, but it is enough to conclude that it was indeed a member of the titanosaurs, which includes some of the biggest animals to have ever existed.
It’s taken over 60 years for scientists to actually describe the fossils found in a storage room in Rio's Museum of Earth Sciences. The researchers concede that this is a fairly long time for the fossils to languish in a cupboard, but that it’s not that surprising considering that even today there are so few dinosaur experts working in the country, and back in 1953 there were even fewer. Put simply, there was not the staff to fully examine every single fossil that they were digging up, and so the Brazilian beast was soon forgotten about.
When a creature as large as Austroposeidon magnificus died out on the floodplain, it would have been a bonanza for scavenging dinosaurs in the area. It would have attracted carnivores from all around, not dissimilar to what happens when large herbivores die out on the African savanna.
“When these animals die, it's... a huge new source of meat,” the Museum’s director, Diogenes de Almeida Campos, told AP. “So all the hunters, the carnivores ate this creature. The first thing they ate is the head, because the brain must be tasty.”
“They also broke the long bones to get at the marrow,” Campos added. “After, came smaller animals and nothing was left over. Anything that did remain the beetles and the spiders and the ants finished, and when there was just bones, the bacteria came. Finally, the remains sank into the lagoon.”
This is why they have only got a few remaining vertebrae for the giant, as the other bones would have been scattered by predators and then further distributed when the sediment that buried the remains washed over them.
But it seems that after 66 million years the magnificent creature’s time has finally come, as following its official description in the journal PLOS One, it has now gone on display at the Museum of Earth Sciences in Rio. To go alongside the dinosaur’s vertebrae, they have also unveiled a full-size artist’s interpretation of the animal.