Meet Dreadnoughtus, perhaps the biggest creature to ever walk the planet

Updated 12:02 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
01:22 - Source: Drexel University
Is this the biggest dinosaur EVER?

Story highlights

Dreadnoughtus schrani, a dinosaur species, was recently discovered in Patagonia

Experts estimate the specimen was 85 feet long (with a 30-foot tail), weighed 65 tons

Paleontologist: This is the "best example we have of any of the most giant creatures"

CNN —  

He was a big boy. A very, very big boy.

In fact, the Dreadnoughtus schrani dinosaur unveiled Thursday was one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – land animal ever to grace the Earth.

Experts estimate that back in its day – the Upper Cretaceous period, approximately 77 million years ago – this giant measured 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons.

No wonder, then, paleontologists picked a first name that breaks down to “fear nothing.” (The second name honors benefactor and tech entrepreneur Adam Schran.) You wouldn’t be scared, either, if you towered over every creature in sight, could smash most anything with your whip-like tail and could smoosh most anything with your colossal feet.

“Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly huge,” said Kenneth Lacovara, the lead author of the report published in Scientific Reports, as quoted on his school Drexel University’s website. “It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex.”

The fossilized remains of this Dreadnoughtus were unearthed recently in Argentina’s southwestern Patagonia.

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And to think the massive dinosaur pieced together by Lacovara’s team was still growing up, according to expert analysis.

It’s hard to say how much bigger this or other Dreadnoughtus may have gotten had it fully matured. Nor, without a time machine, can one quickly determine whether this new species was bigger than fellow titanosaurs such as the similarly gargantuan Argentinosaurus.

That’s mostly because other finds like these are relatively incomplete, forcing paleontologists to make estimates based off a bone or two here and there.

“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,” said Matthew Lamanna, a Carnegie Museum of Natural History scholar who was part of the team, in the Drexel piece. “But the biggest dinosaurs have remained a mystery because, in almost all cases, their fossils are very incomplete.”

Not so with the new Dreadnoughtus specimen, which is another big reason – big being the operative word for everything about this creature – it’s so special.

Those who excavated the sometimes snow-covered terrain not far from Antarctica were able to locate more than 70% of the Dreadnoughtus’ bones, including part of a jaw. Compare that to maybe 3% to 27% for other dinosaur finds of its kind.

Lacovara characterized the discovery as “by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet.”