The titanosaur weighed 70 tons during its lifetime. That’s as much as 10 African elephants, reporters learned at the American Museum of Natural History yesterday during the unveiling of the museum’s newest mega star. Starting today, a 122-foot-long dinosaur cast that’s too large to fit entirely inside the gallery in which its mounted can be seen by all.
And here's the twist: the animal that this particular skeleton is based on hadn’t fully matured when it died, which means that it probably would have grown larger had it lived to adulthood.
"Isn’t he beautiful?" Ellen Futter, president of AMNH, asked a crowd of reporters during a press conference yesterday. "Well, for the record, we don’t actually know if he’s a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’"Not much is known about the species to which this titanosaur belongs; scientists haven’t even given it a name yet. But what we do know is this: titanosaurs were a diverse group of plant-eating dinosaurs characterized by small heads and colossal bodies. The bones of this particular animal were found in Argentine Patagonia in 2014. Scientists don’t know what killed it, but they think it died around an ephemeral lake.
The skeleton that’s on display at the museum was built after analyzing 84 fossil bones. It’s made of 3D-printed fiberglass — it doesn’t contain any real fossils — because a display made of actual titanosaur remains would have been too heavy to mount. Still, for a limited time, visitors of the museum can see real fossils of the dinosaur’s forelimb and its 8-foot-long thigh bone alongside this humongous cast. And even without the cast, the sight of those bones is totally worth it.
The titanosaur at AMNH is about 30 feet longer than the museum’s next largest model, the blue whale. It’s an impressive sight that’s bound to be remembered by kids and adults alike. But whale fans should take heart: blue whales are still the heaviest species that have ever lived. They weigh 200 tons — enough to make this young titanosaur seem downright puny.
Update January 15th, 11:42AM: Although one of the paleontologists who recovered the fossils says it's the biggest dinosaur, the titanosaur model at AMNH might not be the largest skeleton. There appears to be a skeletal "simulaton" of the argentinosaurus — another titanosaur — at the Museo Carmen Funes in Argentina that's 130 feet in length. That simulation is larger than the actual argentinosaurus itself, however.