Scientists have identified a new dinosaur species. The massive Dreadnoughtus schrani skeleton is one of the largest, and most complete, ever found. It is estimated that the new dinosaur was close to 90 feet long and weighed nearly 65 tons.
The skeleton was discovered by Professor Kenneth Lacovara, PhD, with Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Although the bones were initially found in 2005, it took four years to unearth the entire skeleton.
Lacovara said he and his colleagues recovered more than 70 percent of the creature’s bones — excluding its head. As reported by USA Today, prior to the 2005 discovery, “no more than 27 percent of any giant dinosaur’s bone types had been found.”
Although the new dinosaur’s skeleton is “astoundingly huge,” Lacovara said “it was not yet fully grown” at the time of its death.
Dreadnoughtus schrani was undoubtedly huge, “with a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail.” However, it was not a predator. In fact, Lacovara believes the massive beasts spent a majority of their time eating — plants.
The new dinosaur species likely lived in a temperate forest in the southernmost region of South America. Lacovara and his colleagues estimate the skeleton is nearly 77 million years old.
Sedimentary deposits, which were found at the site, suggest the Dreadnoughtus schrani was killed during a massive flood. Although the circumstances were unfortunate for the dinosaur, they may have helped preserve the skeleton. Professor Lacovara discusses his theory:
“… [it was] buried quickly after a river flooded and broke through its natural levee, turning the ground into something like quicksand. The rapid and deep burial of the Dreadnoughtusschrani type specimen accounts for its extraordinary completeness. Its misfortune was our luck.”
Although the bones legally belong to the federal government of Argentina, they are currently on loan to Drexel University. Lacovara and his colleagues will retain possession of the new dinosaur’s skeleton until 2015 — when it will be returned to Argentina’s Museo Padre Molina.
As reported by Science 2.0, the dinosaur was named “Dreadnoughtus,” as it likely “feared nothing.” The species name, “schrani,” is a homage to Adam Schran — who provided funding for Lacovara’s research.
As the specimen was largely complete, the new dinosaur skeleton will help researchers better understand other titanosaurian dinosaurs. The details of Lacovara’s research and findings were published in Scientific Reports.