Introducing the titanosaur

The skeleton of one of the largest dinosaurs known to have inhabited the Earth, reconstructed from the fossil bones of six animals discovered in 2010 in Patagonia, will shortly go on display in the Natural History Museum in London.

It will be one of the largest exhibits to grace a British museum. In spring, the Natural History Museum in London will display the skeleton of a titanosaur, a creature so vast it will have to be shoehorned into the 9-metre-high Waterhouse gallery.

One of the most massive creatures ever to have walked on Earth, Patagotitan mayorum was a 57-tonne behemoth that would have shaken the ground as it stomped over homelands which now form modern Patagonia. Its skeleton is 37 metres long, and 5 metres in height – significantly larger than the museums most famous dinosaur, Dippy the diplodocus, which used to loom over its main gallery.

Patagotitan mayorum lived about 100 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, near the end of the dinosaurs’ reign on Earth. It was one of the three or four biggest species of titanosaur now known to science.

As with all discoveries in science, it raises new questions.

Several mysteries still surround Patagotitan mayorum, however. “You find remains of big dinosaurs in many places but in Patagonia you get ones that are absolutely massive, like titanosaurs,” Barrett said. “So was there something special about the ecology of the region at this time or have we just been unlucky so far in not finding titanosaur remains elsewhere?”

It is also not clear why the six animals died so close together. “They were all almost fully grown and died at the same site,” Marron said. “But why? What could have done that? It is not clear, though the mystery gives an extra dimension to the story of these wonderful animals.”

When I read such fascinating news stories, I often wonder how deniers in evolution or an old Earth react to them. Do they choose not to read them? Or do they read them and dismiss them as the work of scientists who are colluding to present a false picture to the faithful? It must be exhausting to constantly have to work to preserve a worldview that is constantly being undermined by new evidence. It must be like being Bucky Katt.

(Get Fuzzy)


  1. Holms says

    “…I often wonder how deniers in evolution or an old Earth react to them.”
    I put it to you that you posted this story specifically to get a comment from your resident science denier. Confess!

  2. KeithRB says

    Actually, having the six die together just proves that they died in the flood! Checkmate scientists!

    When you have already dismissed the dating methods, there is nothing here to challenge a YEC. You should read the sensuous curmudgeon, Mano.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    “Do they choose not to read them? Or do they read them and dismiss them…?”
    There’s a very old joke about a man who is on a months-long vacation in Europe who receives a telegram. It reads, “Very sorry to inform you that your mother-in-law has died. Do you wish her to be embalmed, cremated, or buried?” The man replies, “All three, take no chances!”
    Considering that many creationists still whip out ancient chestnuts like Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man to “disprove” evolution reveals that they ignore scientific facts as much as possible, and when forced to respond they turn to the same tired replies that their fathers and grandfathers used. Ecclesiates 1:9 says, “There is nothing new under the sun”, and by gum, creationists try very hard to keep it that way.

  4. Katydid says

    I have a relative-by-marriage who is a fundagelical who denies the existence of dinosaurs entirely. “People take ONE BONE they found in a field and say there were thousands of dinosaurs!”

    Have you noticed with fundagelical and right-wing people that everything they don’t like is always ONE, e.g. “Just ONE PERSON complained about our super-Christian mandatory office prayers, so now we’re not allowed to force people to pray at work!”

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    … about 100 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period…


    The Cretaceous lasted from about 146 million to 65 million years ago.

    Gotta wonder worry about the paleontological credibility of any writer who thinks “late” means “early middle”…

  6. larpar says

    Pierce R. Butler @5
    This update from the end of the Guardian article: ” This article was amended on 27 November 2022. Patagotitan mayorum lived about 101 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous period; not about 10o million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, as an earlier version said.”
    I foresee another update. : )

  7. says

    Okay, it’s been a long time since I learned this stuff, but isn’t 100 million years ago the beginning of the Late Cretaceous epoch? That would make 101 million ago as the end of the Early Cretaceous, I suppose, as the correction has it.

  8. johnson catman says

    That drawing makes it look like it would be front-heavy and prone to tipping over into a faceplant.

  9. Mano Singham says

    johnson catman @#8,

    The article says that the tail is heavy and serves to counterbalance the long neck.

  10. lanir says

    With creatures like this I kind of wonder how they breathed. That’s a lot of cells to provide oxygen to and that neck would be maybe 15-20 meters long? Kind of makes me wonder whether the usual cycle of inhale and exhale through a mouth would do the job.

  11. flex says

    @10 lanir,

    That’s a good question.

    A couple years ago I learned that avian respiration is very different than mammalian. Much more efficient in getting oxygen. I’m not going to try to describe the differences in this comment, mainly because I can’t. I can’t say that I understand how avian respiration works even after reading several articles about it. I can only say that I know that it’s different. Here is one link:

    I don’t know if dinosaur respiration resembles avian respiration, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  12. Heidi Nemeth says

    Years ago I read a book with the work “Kinkajou” in the title. The book was about animal physiology, with many short essays on the curious workings of the bodies of various animals. One of the essays described how the long neck of herons made it so the birds’ wingbeats were timed to coincide with its breathing cycle. In flight, the chest expands as their wings go up and contract as the wings go down. The long neck of the titanosaur may have likewise made a very long breathing cycle possible, which could have been advantageous if the animals were shore dwellers who foraged underwater.

  13. billseymour says

    That brings acquatic mamals to my mind.  They seem to be able to completely empty and refill what must be very large lungs with relatively short breaths, and then dive for extended periods of time.  I’m gonna have to look that up.

  14. txpiper says

    “Higher proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere”
    I have read analysts who conclude that megafauna preserved in the fossil record could not live and function now.

  15. lanir says

    The bird respiration link was pretty interesting. I’ll have to see if I can find a video explanation of it. It sounds like the details of the pathing and timing of how the air moves through them would be the key to sort of understanding it since they’re so different from what we’re used to.

    I did think of the extra oxygen in the air but I mistakenly dismissed it as I was remembering that the peak oxygen levels were from before anything but insects and plants were present on land. Threw me off a bit and I forgot that the bigger dinosaurs had more oxygen in their time, too, even if it wasn’t at peak levels.

  16. says

    My understanding is that peak O2 was at the end of the Carboniferous to early Permian, predating the dinosaurs. That’s what made the giant insects possible (no lungs, but rather direct gas diffusion into surface tissue). I don’t recall the O2 during the Mesozoic being particularly higher than it is now.

    Regarding the artist’s rendering, those look like some dangerously spindly legs for that body mass. That, and it seems to have a very high center of mass. I am also thinking of the huge torque generated by swinging that massive neck and tail. If that pic is accurate, I’m betting it had chronic knee problems. See? More evidence for not-so-intelligent design!

  17. txpiper says

    “That kind of feeding required long necks, which would have been impossibly heavy if they were built with solid vertebrae. But large sauropods had vertebrae riddled with holes. These air-filled, or pneumatic, bones weighed only about 35% as much as solid ones, which helped the sauropods to carry necks up to 15 metres long, says Mathew Wedel, a palaeontologist at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. Hollow areas within the pneumatic bones may have connected to air sacs in the body cavity that helped to blow air through the lungs and improved the breathing efficiency of the giants — features seen in modern birds. Without the extra volume provided by such air sacs, it would have been impossible for the sauropods to clear the stale air that filled their necks after each breath; their lungs were simply too small to do the job alone.”
    How do you suppose they got along till random DNA replication errors wrote the definitions and developmental instructions to hollow our their bones?

  18. Holms says

    After a momentary pause for thought: the size increases and bone density reduction went hand in hand from small origins early in their ancestry. Then I read your own, which says as much and more starting from paragraph three.

    With thinking and reading available to you, you chose to do… neither.

  19. tuatara says

    Hey txpiper. I think that you have the order reversed there mate.
    Perhaps it was the hollowed bones that allowed them to become so large?

  20. John Morales says

    Well, I did wait.

    Poorly-chosen imagery, for mine — to me, it looks like it’s about to poop.

  21. txpiper says

    “hand in hand”
    lol…if only random errors could have useful and happy results. What a wonderful world it would be.

  22. lochaber says

    txpiper> we get it, you don’t understand probability. I’m not sure why you keep thinking that your lack of understanding on that subject will grant you any credibility in any other subject?

  23. Holms says

    I thought my sentence clear, but to be sure I will rephrase to make it more plain. If the vast size of titanosaurs required low density bones (and other enabling features) before the vast size was attainable, then the adaptations must have preceded the vast size.

    And as I pointed out, the paper you quote from says as much. Plainly you did not read it and still have not.

  24. txpiper says

    lochaber, stay away from Vegas.
    “the vast size of titanosaurs required low density bones (and other enabling features) before the vast size was attainable…”
    So, since you comprehend that sequence is important, perhaps you have some ideas about how random errors actually did the modifying. I count about 12 neck vertebrae in the various sauropods I looked at, and each is uniquely shaped and positioned.
    -Did each vertebra evolve according to its own unique set of copy errors?
    -Did mutations lighten them up a little bit at a time, or did the errors whittle them down on a reoccurring basis, removing more bone as necks grew in size and length?
    -How many random fortuitous replication failures would you supposed were involved?
    -How many failures happened while the neck and counterbalancing heavy tail were working things out?

    Did you ever ask a single interesting question while you were being educated to believe that rare, random DNA replication errors could do fantastically complex biological engineering?

  25. Tethys says

    I am unsurprised to see that txpiper is filling this thread with his irreducible complexity nonsense.

    The reconstruction image is rather bad, especially if this Dino was like a Giraffe who browses on tall trees. Drawing it in a grassland with knee high trees and fish colored spots is highly unrealistic.

    More photos and an excellent reconstruction of these Patagonian species can be found at this Argentinian museum tour article.

  26. Holms says

    #27 tx
    Your first question was “How do you suppose they got along till random DNA replication errors wrote the definitions and developmental instructions to hollow our their bones?” Before we move to the next question, you need to acknowledge that this has been answered. And for the third time now I will suggest again that you read the source you quoted from.

  27. tuatara says

    Hey txpiper.
    You got it around the wrong way again.
    Evolution doesn’t have a goal in mind (doesn’t have a mind in which to hold an image of said goal, you see).
    Evolution doesn’t start from a perfect state either. At every point in time it just needs to be good enough for an organism to survive and reproduce. This is why for many organisms a small change in environmental factors can cause population collapse and even extinction. Life’s grip on life is tenuous.
    Believing that god made man is arse about face too. It happened the other way.

  28. says

    Did you ever ask a single interesting question while you were being educated to believe that rare, random DNA replication errors could do fantastically complex biological engineering?

    Yes, and we got far more interesting answers than your boring simpleminded falsehood-ridden PRATTs. Dismissed.

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