Argentinosaurus was a Huge Cretaceous Sauropod
Argentinosaurus lived during the late Cretaceous period about 95 million years ago and comes from the Titanosauria family of Sauropods, meaning armored giants. Occasionally known as the “Dino Don” the Argentinosaurus is one of the most famous sauropods of huge proportions that was discovered in the 1990’s.
The name Argentinosaurus refers to the country in which it was discovered, Argentina, and comes from the Greek language which when translated literally means “Argentina Lizard”. Named in 1993 by Rodolpho Coria and Jose Bonaparte, Argentinosaurus is pronounced ahr-gen-TEEN-oh-SAWR-us.
|Prehistoric Era||Late Cretaceous|
|Weight||80 – 110 Short Tons (72.57 – 99.79 Tonnes)|
|Length||120 feet (36.58 meters)|
|Height||70 feet (21.34 meters)|
|Maximum Speed||Approximately 6 MPH|
|Territory||Argentina, South America|
What did Argentinosaurus Look Like?
Argentinosaurus was a very large dinosaur which had a long neck extending more than 29 feet, a relatively small head, a long tail and four rather short muscular legs.
Palaeontologists know very little about Argentinosaurus as only a few fossilized bones have been recovered from a single individual. But basing their estimates on similar Titanosaur Sauropods, that of the Saltasaurus and Raperosaurus, they have estimated it’s size to be in the region of 72-120 feet long with a height of about 70 feet. Estimates of around 80 tons were recently given for Argentinosaurus weight though by the implementation of a new formula for calculating dinosaurs weight – this is now likely to be much less than previously thought.
Until a complete skeleton of Argentinosaurus is found Palaeontologists can not know for certain how large this dinosaur actually was, nor exactly what it looked like though the bones discovered, along with comparing other Sauropods, prove that this dinosaur was one of the largest ever discovered (though not the largest as is often mistakenly thought.)
Physical Attributes of Argentinosaurus
Palaeontologists measured a single vertebra (back-bone) from Argentinosaurus at more than 5.24 feet tall, its tibiae (the joints between knee and ankle) measured 4.9 feet long, the humerus (the bone of the forelimb which would have joined the shoulder and elbow) measured almost 5.9 feet long and an incomplete femur shaft measured 3.87 feet making this dinosaur extremely large and quite intimidating.
Scientists have worked out that this dinosaurs back worked like a bridge made from bone, strong enough to support the weight of the animal but still light enough to produce a dinosaur of such immense size.
Researchers have also discovered that Argentinosaurs bones were hollow, a very interesting characteristic. It is thought that this served as an evolutionary strategy for maximizing strength and size in relation to its weight.
What did Argentinosaurus Eat?
Argentinosaurus was an herbivore. This large sauropod had good teeth for grinding and chewing the tough plant material found in Cretaceous period Argentina.
Some biologists believe that dinosaurs, particularly this large Argentinosaurus, were able to reach such a massive size due to the rate of their metabolism. It is thought that at the height of adolescence an Argentinosaurus would have been able to gain roughly 100 pounds per day – That’s a lot of plant matter!
How did Argentinosaurus Move?
Argentinosaurus walked on four legs but little else is known about its method of locomotion due to a lack of fossil evidence. Some say that because this dinosaur was so big and heavy with rather short legs it may have had trouble moving and certainly wouldn’t have been able to run, but until more evidence is uncovered this is just speculation. We do know that close relatives to Argentinosaurus in the Titanosaur family with similar body shapes were slow movers so it is likely that Argentinosaurus was too.
Where did Argentinosaurus Live?
Argentinosaurus lived about 95 million years ago on the super continent of Gondwana in an area that we recognize today as Argentina, South America. During that period the Patagonian desert was a lush paradise for dinosaurs such as Argentinosaurus.
The Patagonia region is one of the world’s hot-spots for the biggest dinosaurs, the 45 foot long carnivorous Giganotosaurus having also roamed here during the same time. It is possible that Giganotosaurus may have preyed on young or sick Argentinosaurus’ and that multiple Giganotosaurus’ may have hunted full-grown Argentinosaurus.
The Discovery of Argentinosaurus
This dinosaur was only recently discovered in the mid 1990’s at a farm in Patagonia, Southern Argentina, alongside a Giganotosaurus and not much is known about it.
A shepherd called Guillermo Heredia discovered what he thought was a massive piece of fossilized wood from a tree trunk on his farm and called in palaeontologists from the nearby Carmen Funes Municipal Museum to take a closer look. It was discovered that this was no piece of wood, this was a huge shin bone (tibia) from a very large dinosaur who lived in the Cretaceous age, and a new species at that – A. huincelensis of the new genus Argentinosaurus.
Palaeontologists went on to discover in total 3 anterior dorsal vertebrae, 3 posterior dorsal vertebrae (back bones), the 1st to 5th sacral vertebrae (the part of the backbone which is attached to the pelvis), sacral ribs of the right side, a major piece of fragmented dorsal rib and the right tibia (lower leg bone).
Because only a few fragmentary bones have been found, making up only 5% of the skeleton and the fact that no skull has been found, palaeontologists still have a lot of unanswered questions about this dinosaur and have very few clues to go on as to what it looked like.
Hopefully another Argentinosaurus specimen will be discovered in the future along with more pieces from the holotype, perhaps a skull, to enable palaeontologists to shed more light on this mighty long neck.
The Importance of Argentinosaurus
The discovery of a new dinosaur is always important as it helps palaeontologists to learn more about what was roaming the land in prehistoric times, shedding light on how future dinosaurs species evolved.
The Titanosaur Sauropods were one of the most successful dinosaur families to live after the decline of their predecessors and the discovery of Argentinosaurus hollow bones may fill in some of the missing data on how the Sauropods evolved over time. Unfortunately however without a complete skeleton or at least a skull it is difficult to know exactly what Argentinosaurus really resembled.