I’m sure you’ve heard. The most complete skeleton of a titanosaur, a newly named species, Dreadnoughtus schrani, is being reported from Argentina.
It is not a bird. I mention that because we’ve been talking about how birds are dinosaurs lately (see:”Honey, I shrunk the dinosaurs” and “Flying Dinosaurs: A new book on the dinosaur bird link.”).
Dreadnoughtus schrani is a sauropod. Brontosaurus, if it existed, would be a sauropod. These are the dinosaurs with the little heads, long necks, and long tails. In cartoons they are sometimes called “long-necks.” Dreadnoughtus schrani is, as mentioned, a titanosaur, a particularly large long neck.
How does this relate to the other dinosaurs? The dinosaurs are part of a really big group of organisms that includes crocodiles, pterosaurs (those flying things) and so on. Within this group are the proper dinosaurs which you can think of as being divided into three groups. One group is the Ornithischia, named from the greek for “birdlike.” These are not birds either, but their hips somewhat resemble bird hips. (Birds are “lizard hipped” dinosaurs, which completes the paleoirony.) The Ornithischia are separate from the other two groups which are the Sauropods and the Theropods. The Theropods include Tyrannosaurus rex and pigeons. The Sauropods includes the Brontosaurus-like dinosaurs, though of course, there is no such thing as Brontosaurus. Because people who name dinosaurs are, essentially, sadistic.
Anyway, Dreadnoughtus schrani is estimated to have been about 26 meters (85 feet) long. So if you live in a typical city lot it could eat the bushes on your front lawn while knocking over your garage out back with its tail. It would have weighted about 59 metric tons. That’s about 65 regular tons. Nobody really knows what a ton is unless you are in certain professions, so that’s about 33 cars, or about 70 head of cattle. So, the average American could replace the usual meat in their diet with meat from one well fed Dreadnoughtus schrani for about two centuries. Give or take. This is all based on the one specimen found in Argentina. But, that individual was not full grown. So, wow. I’m not sure if Dreadnoughtus schrani is the biggest sauropod, as there are others in this size range.
The specimen is about 45% complete as a skeleton, but about 70% of the bones in the body are represented. Unfortunately the head is missing. But really, where could it be? I’m sure they’ll find it if they keep looking!
Titanosaurs were the major large dinos during the Mesozoic (252 – 66 mya) in the southern continents. This particular find dates to the Upper Cretaceous, the latest part of the Mesozoic.
(A) Reconstructed skeleton and body silhouette in left lateral view with preserved elements in white. (B) Left scapula and coracoid in lateral view. (C) Sternal plates in ventral view. (D) Left forelimb (metacarpus reconstructed) in anterior view. (E) Left pelvis (ilium partially reconstructed) in lateral view. (F) Left hind limb in anterior view (metatarsus and pes partially reconstructed and reversed from right). (G) Transverse ground thin section of humeral shaft, showing heavy secondary remodelling (arrow indicates extent of dense osteon formation), a thick layer of well-vascularized fibrolamellar bone, and a lack of lines of arrested growth or an external fundamental system. Abbreviations: acet, acetabulum; acf, acromial fossa; acp, acromial process; acr, acromial ridge; ast, astragalus; cc, cnemial crest; cof, coracoid foramen; cor, coracoid; dpc, deltopectoral crest; fem, femur; fhd, femoral head; fib, fibula; flb, fibrolamellar bone; gl, glenoid; hum, humerus; il, ilium; ilp, iliac peduncle; isc, ischium; isp, ischial peduncle; lt, lateral trochanter; mtI, metatarsal I; mtII, metatarsal II; of, obturator foramen; pop, postacetabular process; prp, preacetabular process; pu, pedal ungual; pub, pubis; pup, pubic peduncle; rac, radial condyle; rad, radius; sc, scapula; scb, scapular blade; sr, secondary remodelling; tib, tibia; tpp, tuberosity on preacetabular process; ul, ulna; ulc, ulnar condyle. Scale bars equal 1 m in (A) to (F) and 1 mm in (G). (Skeletal reconstruction by L. Wright, with G. Schultz.)
The name means “Fearless-creature guy-who-funded-expedition.” According to the authors, this is specifically where the genus name comes from:
Dreadnought (Old English), fearing nothing; genus name alludes to the gigantic body size of the taxon (which presumably rendered healthy adult individuals nearly impervious to attack) and the predominant battleships of the early 20th century (two of which, ARA [Armada de la República Argentina] Rivadavia and ARA Moreno, were part of the Argentinean navy). Species name honours the American entrepreneur Adam Schran for his support of this research.
For more information:
The Scientific Report article (which appears to be Open Access): A Gigantic, Exceptionally Complete Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina
An open access paper on how this type of dinosaur even walked: March of the Titans: The Locomotor Capabilities of Sauropod Dinosaurs.
Michael Balter with Science Mag: Giant dinosaur unearthed in Argentina
Mr. Dinosaur Brian Switek: Enormous New Dinosaur as Formidable as Its Namesake Battleship
Ian Sample at The Guardian, including a video: Battleship beast: colossal dinosaur skeleton found in southern Patagonia
Francie Diep at Scientific American: New “Dreadnought” Dinosaur Most Complete Specimen of a Giant