via PhyloPic.org under Public Domain/Creative Commons license.
Titanosaurs were lumpin' huge.
Today we learn about Dreadnoughtus schrani, a ginormous sauropod with a freaking awesome name. As Slog-tipper Barry points out, "All dinosaurs should be named by a precocious 11-year-old in possession of a Monster Manual." (Yeah! No more Utahraptor or Albertosaurus. BORING.)
An international team of paleontologists led by Kenneth Lacovara revealed that Dreadnoughtus is a titanosaur, a group of the sauropods that are among the heaviest creatures to ever walk the earth. The fossil was discovered in Argentina in 2005, and is especially unique because it's about 70 percent complete: the largest fossil mass ever found for an individual creature. (The previous record was just 27 percent complete!)
Lacovara's preliminary research shows that Dread hails from the late Cretaceous Period (about 77 million years ago, close to the end of the age of dinosaurs) and lived in high-altitude and heavily forested valleys. By studying the growth rings in Dread's bones, the paleontologists also discovered, to their astonishment, that despite the creature's enormous size, it was growing steadily up until the day it died.
Although Dread is a contender for the title of largest land animal ever, Lacovara explains that such a claim is actually quite complicated. The current, widely accepted champion is a dinosaur called Argentinosaurus. But Argentinosaurus is only known from a handful of fossils (around 5 percent of its total bones,) so its size and dimensions are roughly estimated. For paleontologists, the gold standard for predicting weight and height involve calculations based on several leg bones. And of the calculable dinosaurs, Dred is number 1.
Obviously Dreadnoughtus wins no matter what because of its superior name. (Argentinosaurus. Whatever.) Read more about its magnificence here, and watch videos about the discovery here and here. Seriously. Go watch them: the size of the vertebrae alone is astonishing.