for National Geographic News
Argentinean scientists have discovered gigantic neck, back, and tail bones from one of the largest dinosaurs ever to roam the Earth.
Most impressive is a back vertebra that measures 3.48 feet (1.06 meters) tall and 5.51 feet (1.68 meters) wide, according to Fernando Novas. The paleontologist announced the find at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences in Buenos Aires on July 21.
The new species is one of the titanosaurs, a group of plant-eating sauropod dinosaurs that walked on four feet and are known for their long necks and tails.
Based on analysis of the vertebrae and comparison with smaller, better-known titanosaurs, the paleontologist believes the new find was 115 to 131 feet (35 to 40 meters) long and weighed between 88 and 110 tons (80 and 100 metric tons).
Its chest alone was nearly 16 feet (5 meters) in diameter, about the size of an entire modern-day elephant.
Novas led the research team that discovered the 70-million-year-old bones in Argentina's Santa Cruz Province, located in the country's southern Patagonia region (map of Argentina).
He named the species Puertasaurus reuili in honor of two fossil hunters who discovered and prepared the specimen: Pablo Puerta and Santiago Reuil.
"Puertasaurus is one of the biggest dinosaurs ever found," Novas, who is also a researcher with Argentine science organization CONICET, said in an email interview.
Novas said that only one of the titanosaurs rivals Puertasaurus in size: Argentinosaurus huinculensis, which was found in northwestern Patagonia and lived 90 million years ago.
The newly described fossils, which also include a neck and two tail vertebrae, were excavated in 2001. Novas and colleagues Leonardo Salgado, Jorge Calvo, and Federico Agnolin describe the species in the current issue of the journal Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales "Bernardino Rivadavia."
Other team members include Novas's students Gastón Lo Coco, Juan Canale, Alejandro Haluza, and Juan Goroso. The National Geographic Society helped finance the research. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
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