by Nur Hussein, staff writer
A paper describing the sauropod Dreadnoughtus Schrani was published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports today. The study was based on the most complete fossilized skeleton of a sauropod ever found. Sauropods are a kind of dinosaur with long necks and tails and large, thick legs such as the Brachiosaurus and the Apatosaurus. The largest of the sauropods are the Titanosaurs, of which Dreadnoughtus is one. The Dreadnoughtus lived 77 million years ago (late Cretaceous period), was 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons, which is equivalent to about a dozen elephants.
The research team was led by Kenneth Lacovara of Drexel University, who has led expeditions to the Patagonia region in Argentina since 2005 and unearthed the giant beast. He first set out to Patagonia in 2005 and happened upon a region of earth where a small patch of fossilized bone was exposed. His team eventually uncovered hundreds of bones, which led to the discovery of this nearly complete fossilized massive sauropod skeleton.
The Dreadnoughtus discovery offers an opportunity for scientists to model super-massive land animals such as sauropod dinosaurs; this particular specimen was discovered to be still growing at the time of its death. Professor Lacovara was impressed by the size and power of the dinosaur’s tail, which he described as “bulky” and “massively muscled”. It was 30 feet long and was probably used as a deadly weapon.
The dinosaur’s genus was thus dubbed “Dreadnoughtus,” named after old battleships called dreadnoughts which were large and tough. The name means “fears nothing,” for an animal with that much size and power really has nothing to fear! Professor Lacovara felt that herbivores should get some recognition for being badass. The species name “schrani” was named after Adam Schran, the entrepreneur who provided much funding for the research.
The research team has painstakingly scanned each bone with a 3-D scanner, and constructed a virtual model of the creature’s skeletal frame. The paper, along with the scanned bone models are available for free download from the Scientific Reports website.
Nur is a tinkerer of programmable things, an apprentice in an ancient order of technomages. He enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and Lego in his spare time. His favourite authors are Asimov and Tolkien. He also loves Celtic and American folk music. You can follow him on twitter: @nurhussein