One of the most interesting areas of dinosaurs for children is learning exactly about how diverse this number of reptiles actually were. Like, to date there were over 1,000 different species formally named and described. A good a number of these known species were quite small, the idea that all dinosaurs were huge is really a bit of a misnomer, and museums which love to have a huge and spectacular dinosaur display often give the wrong impression. As dinosaurs evolved, they filled just about any niche in the food chain, just like terrestrial mammals do today. If land mammals can range in proportions from a shrew to an African elephant, then it’s not surprising to learn that dinosaurs varied in proportions too.
But what about the really big dinosaurs? Children love to learn facts and figures about these prehistoric animals and amongst their favourite questions is to enquire which was the largest dinosaur ever? To recognize the giants among the dinosaurs is really a relatively simple task. There is one particular group that grew much bigger than every other known form of dinosaur – indeed some of the members of the group were undoubtedly the largest, the longest and the heaviest land animals that have ever roamed planet Earth.
A well-known dinosaur such as Triceratops (Triceratops horridus) was big. The greatest species of Triceratops is estimated to possess been with us nine metres in total and it might have weighed as much as seven tonnes. If this species of dinosaur were around today it could be classed as the largest land living animal, with only the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) to rival it. However, Triceratops would have been dwarfed by the majority of the members of the Sauropoda, a group of long-necked, long-tailed, lizard-hipped dinosaurs, representatives of which could claim to be the largest land living animals known to science.
Introducing the Sauropods
Quite simply, the Sauropods (the name means “lizard foot”) were Saurischian, that is belonging to the lizard-hipped clade of dinosaurs that also included the mainly carnivorous Theropods. These plant-eating dinosaurs had small heads, long necks and tails with massive bodies. Their weight was supported by four trunk-like legs and these animals were slow-moving, ponderous creatures. Some of these kind evolved dermal armour and 1 or 2 unusual genera even had tail clubs and spikes, just like the armoured dinosaurs such as the Stegosaurs and the Ankylosaurs. These dinosaurs appear in the fossil record in Upper Triassic strata and they survived right up until the end of age dinosaurs. Sauropods would have been familiar to the kind of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurids such as Tyrannosaurus rex. It was the Victorians who first marvelled at the size of these dinosaurs. The first really big dinosaur fossil bones being put on display through the reign of Queen Victoria and it’s from this point onwards that the debate concerning which was the largest dinosaur really got going.
Defining the Biggest Dinosaurs
There are numerous difficulties with wanting to identify which was the largest of the Sauropods. For a start, most of these colossal creatures are known from only a few fragmentary and definately not complete skeletons. Although the size of a dinosaur may be deferred from several bones such as the femur (thigh bone) using a procedure related to comparative anatomy it’s not precise. The other problem is, new species are being discovered constantly and this can lead to changes in proportions estimations. Indeed, once a new dinosaur is named and described the resulting press publicity can lead with a inaccurate size estimates becoming highlighted in the media. It appears that adults and children too are thinking about record breakers. We recall working on some papers related to the fossilised track way of a large Sauropod present in Upper Jurassic aged rocks in France. The tracks contained several metres of clearly defined and large footprints, some higher than a metre in diameter. By enough time the press agencies had got hold of the story and seen some of the photographs, there is speculation that the dinosaur that walked within the soft mud that preserved their tracks was among the biggest of all time. This isn’t easy to verify if you have only got the footprints to go on. The soft mud would have been easily compacted by the animal’s weight and the tracks distorted somewhat as a result. The fossilisation process would also provide distorted the prints, and perhaps their size was overestimated in the press pictures as only the largest, clearest prints were photographed.
The Biggest Dinosaurs of All Time – The Contenders
Let’s start with the present record holder, the dinosaur officially referred to as the largest known to science, at the least for enough time being. This honour would go to the South American Sauropod Argentinosaurus (Argentinosaurus huinculensis). This huge dinosaur was formally named and described in 1993. It’s only known from several fragmentary bones, including a femur and some vertebrae, (backbones). what dinosaur has 500 teeth The fossils were present in Argentina, hence the name. The tallest vertebrae are over 1.2 metres high. In comparisons with better known Sauropods size estimates for this dinosaur have already been made. These estimates vary considerably, with some scientists suggesting that dinosaur might have been over forty-five metres long and weighing something near seventy tonnes. Other more conservative estimates as to the size of the animal have already been made, with a length of only a little over 100 feet being agreed upon by some palaeontologists. It is unquestionably, true that Cretaceous giant was a huge animal, but until more fossils are located the actual size of the dinosaur can just only be estimated. Numerous museums have capitalised on the popularity of the largest dinosaurs and prepared mounted replicas of this kind of giant. The greatest of the museum exhibits measures over thirty-five metres in total, but here again, without more fossil evidence this display is essentially speculative.
Fragmentary remains of a really huge Titanosaurid Sauropod were discovered in southern India through the 1980s. In the beginning scientists believed that the fossils were from a huge meat-eating dinosaur. However, in 1995 the fossils were reclassified as belonging to a Sauropod, simply because no other animal was known to be so big. A tibia (lower leg bone), ascribed to this dinosaur was more than 1.25 times the size of very same bone ascribed to Argentinosaurus. Based on scaling up applying this single bone as evidence, the dinosaur from India referred to as Bruhathkayosaurus (Bruhathkayosaurus matleyi) would be the largest dinosaur known to science. However, the fragmentary nature of the fossils found to date are keeping this kind of specimen out of the record books.
Diplodocus and the Big Sauropods from the United States
Some of the best known long-necked dinosaurs lived in that which was to become the United States. Dinosaurs such as Diplodocus and Apatosaurus (formerly referred to as Brontosaurus). However, these dinosaurs weren’t as wide-bodied as their Titanosaur relatives and not contenders for the largest, that is the heaviest dinosaur of all time. However, there is one mysterious fossil discovery from the United States that may rival the South American dinosaurs in size. In 1878, the American palaeontologist Edward Cope described a one and a half metre long portion of a vertebrae from Upper Jurassic strata from Colorado. The whole bone would have been something such as two and a half metres in total, rendering it the largest back-bone fossil ever found. Cope named this dinosaur Amphicoelias fragillimus and some scientists have estimated that dinosaur may reach lengths in excess of fifty-five metres, stood nine metres high at the hips and weighed something approaching 100 and fifty tonnes. Unfortunately, the bone is no longer around to be studied, having less knowledge regarding fossil bone preservation meant that fossil crumbled into dust, it’s only known from drawings made at the time. Still, if the size estimates are to believed then this dinosaur from the western United States could claim to be the largest of all time.
Are you aware that longest dinosaur, then this is the realm of the Diplodocids but discussing these animals will have to watch for another time.
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