Scientists unearth the world's largest dinosaur

Kenneth Lacovara with the 10-metre tail of Dreadnoughtus schrani, stretching along the length of the wall and around the corner in his lab.

Scientists have discovered a new supermassive dinosaur species, Dreadnoughtus schrani, that is probably the largest land animal ever to have lived.

The specimen the Drexel University team found was 26 metres long and would have weighed nearly 60 tonnes – and that was just a youngster.

"Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge," said Kenneth Lacovara, an associate professor in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, who discovered the fossil skeleton in southern Patagonia in Argentina.

"It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex. Shockingly, skeletal evidence shows that when this 65-ton specimen died, it was not yet full grown. It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet."

Lacovara and his colleagues unearthed the fossil in four field seasons from 2005 to 2009.

The dinosaur belongs to a group of large plant eaters known as titanosaurs. Until now very little has been known about the larger members of the family, as one of the team, Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Matthew Lamanna, explains:

Titanosaurs are a remarkable group of dinosaurs, with species ranging from the weight of a cow to the weight of a sperm whale or more. But the biggest titanosaurs have remained a mystery, because, in almost all cases, their fossils are very incomplete.

Lacovara explains how he came up with the name for the new dinosaur:

With a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail, Dreadnoughtus would have feared nothing. That evokes to me a class of turn-of-the-last century battleships called the dreadnoughts, which were huge, thickly clad and virtually impervious.

He and his team published a detailed description of their discovery in Scientific Reports.

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