A study released Wednesday finally shed light on one of palaeontology's most exciting discoveries: Scientists now believe that the fossils of a gigantic four-legged dinosaur weighing in at an estimated 69 tons belong to the largest land animal ever to walk Earth, the Atlantic reports.
Researchers first discovered the leviathan's bones in Argentina back in 2013, quickly realising that what they'd just discovered was a new, gigantic species. Many of the more than 160 fossils they unearthed were massive, including an eight-foot-long thigh bone.
The team of palaeontologists—led by José Carballido and Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio Paleontology Museum—finally gave their discovery a name on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Patagotitan mayorum. They also answered some questions on the Titanosaurus species' origins, shape, and ungodly size.
According to their research, the Patagotitan could weigh up to an estimated 86 tons—roughly equivalent to 14 full-grown elephants. It measured about 112 feet long (think two tractor trailers parked end to end), and the top of its shoulder towered roughly 20 feet above the ground.
Patagotitans were about eight times the size of Tyrannosaurus rex, which Pol told the Associated Press "look like dwarfs" in comparison. "It's like when you put an elephant by a lion," he said.
According to Smithsonian, the Patagotitan's massive size enabled it to lay a ton of eggs, protected it from predators, and allowed it to travel vast distances to chomp down whatever vegetation it might've eaten—although food likely wasn't in short supply. The beast roamed what's now Argentina about 101 million years ago, when the area experienced a burst of diversity in it flowering plants and temperatures shot up, promoting explosive growth.
As Smithsonian points out, a new dino comes along every few decades to nab the title of biggest land animal ever discovered—first the Brachiosaurus, then the Supersaurus, then the Argentinosaurus—but Carballido said he thinks the search might finally be over.
"Maybe someone can find a bigger one," he told the Atlantic. "But I feel like maybe this is the limit."
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