Episode 97 is all about Argentinosaurus, a titanosaur from Argentina, and one of the largest known dinosaurs.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Argentinosaurus
- Name means “Argentine lizard”
- Titanosaur from what is now Argentina
- One of the largest known dinosaurs, lived in the late Cretaceous
- Latest “largest dinosaur” is Dreadnoughtus
- First fossils found by a rancher in 1987 (thought a leg was a big piece of petrified wood), also found a large vertebra, about the size of an adult human male
- Described by José F. Bonaparte and Rodolfo Coria in 1993
- Type species is Argentinosaurus huinculensis
- Holotype only has 6 vertebrae from the back, 5 partial vertebrae from the hip area, ribs on the right of the hip, part of a rib from the flank, and the right fibula
- Other Argentinosaurus bones that have been found include an incomplete femur, which combined with the other bones helps scientists estimate its size
- Exact size of Argentinosaurus is uncertain
- One vertebra was 5.2 ft (1.59 m) tall
- Gregory S. Paul estimated Argentinosaurus to be between 98-115 ft (30-35 m) long and weigh 80-100 tons
- The skeletal restoration at the Museo Carmen Funes is 140 ft (39.7 m) long and 24 ft (7.3 m) high, and has the mostly complete fibula
- In 2006 Carpenter estimated Argentinosaurus to be 98 ft (30 m) long, based on Saltasaurus
- Other estimates based on Saltasaurus, Opisthocoelicaudia, and Rapetosaurus say Argentinosaurus is between 72-85 ft (22-26 m) long
- In 2004, Mazzetta and others estimated Argentinosaurus to weigh 73 tons (Argentinosaurus is the heaviest known sauropod)
- Another estimate is that Argentinosaurus weighed 83 tons based on the volume of a reconstruction
- In 2013, Bill Sellers, Rodolfo Corio, Lee Margetts and others published a study in PLOS One about Argentinosaurus‘ speed. They digitally reconstructed Argentinosaurus, and estimated its gait and speed with musculoskeletal analysis. They found it could go as fast as 5 mph (2 m/s)
- They used a laser to scan the skeleton in the Argentine museum
- Herbivore, with a long neck it used to reach up into confiers or sweep the ground for ferns and bushes
- Swallowed gastroliths to grind up the food in its stomach
- They probably traveled in herds for protections (juveniles were vulnerable to predators)
- Fossilized eggs of sauropods related to Argentinosaurus have been found, and it’s possible that hundreds of Argentinosaurus adults came together each year to nest, on wide, flat floodplains
- Titanosaurs are a group of sauropods, very large herbivores, that lived during the last 30 million years of the Mesozoic Era. Some titanosaur species are the largest land-living animals discovered, but in many cases, scientists have found incomplete fossils
- The name Titanosaur came from the Titans of Ancient Greek mythology
- The family, Titanosauridae, was named after Titanosaurus, an incomplete fossil (only a partial femur and two incomplete caudal vertebrae) found by Richard Lydekker in 1877. Some scientists think there is not enough information for Titanosauridae to be a genus
- Titanosaurs were the last group of sauropods. They lived about 90 to 66 million years ago and were the dominant herbivores. They replaced other sauropods, like diplodocids and brachiosaurids
- Titanosaur fossils have been found on all continents, including Antarctica. The most titanosaurs lived in the southern continents, which was then part of the supercontinent Gondwana.
- Compared to other sauropods, Titanosaurs had small heads. Their heads were also wide, with large nostrils, and crests formed by nasal bones
- Titanosaurs had spoon-like, or peg or pencil like teeth that were very small
- Titanosaurs were not picky eaters. They had a broad diet which included cycads and conifers, as well as (surprisingly) palms and grasses, such as the ancestors of rice and bamboo (evidence that dinosaurs and grasses evolved together)
- They tended to have average length necks, at least for sauropods, and whip-like tails, but not as long as the Diplodocus tail
- Titanosaurs also had slimmer pelvis’ compared to some sauropods, and wider chests, which gave them a broader stance (and they left broader tracks)
- They had stocky forelimbs that were usually longer than their hindlimbs, and they had solid back bones instead of hollowed out back bones
- Fun fact: The world’s largest synchrotron is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) built by CERN from 1998-2008. It maintains 13 TeV (tera electron volts) between its two beams. To explain what 1 TeV is they say “1 TeV is about the energy of motion of a flying mosquito. What makes the LHC so extraordinary is that it squeezes energy into a space about a million million [AKA a trillion] times smaller than a mosquito” It’s also 17miles in circumference. By comparison the European Synchrotron is 6GeV (about 1/2,000th the power of the LHC) and is about ½ a mile in circumference. And the Stanford Synchrotron is 3GeV (half the European Synchrotron) and is about 1/8th a mile in circumference.
This episode was brought to you by:
The Royal Tyrrell Museum. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is located in southern Alberta, Canada. One of the top paleontological research institutes in the world, the entire museum is dedicated to the science of paleontology. It’s definitely a must see for every dinosaur enthusiast. More information can be found at tyrrellmuseum.com.