The largest land animal alive today is the African bush elephant, weighing in at around 20,000 pounds. As big as elephants are, they’ve got nothing on some extinct megafauna. Scientists excavating a new species of dinosaur in Argentina have reported that the specimen might be the largest that ever lived. Even if it doesn’t set a record, the animal was much bigger than anything alive today.
Only part of the animal has been exhumed from its stone coffin, but paleontologists know it’s from the sauropod family. These creatures, like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus, had long tails and necks along with four thick, pillar-like legs. This body design allowed some species to grow to unfathomable proportions — the current dino record-holder is a sauropod called Patagotitan mayorum. This animal was about six times more massive than a modern African elephant, and the new find looks to be even larger.
The new dinosaur, which is being excavated not far from where scientists discovered Patagotitan mayorum, is still mostly buried in rock. So, it doesn’t have a name, and the team hasn’t ventured a guess as to how large the animal was in life. However, some human-sized bones are 10 to 20 percent larger than the same bones in Patagotitan mayorum. The location makes sense, too. Patagotitan mayorum is also from this region of Argentina, which has gained a reputation for being home to several species of enormous, record-breaking sauropods.
Researchers first spotted the remains of this animal in 2012. A team didn’t make it to the site for excavations until 2015, but the animal had been lying there for 98 million years. A few more seasons wasn’t going to matter. Currently, the team has uncovered the tail, a few pelvic bones, and some vertebrae. From these, paleontologists know they’re looking at a very large dinosaur, possibly even the largest.
It’s rare for an entire animal to fossilize — in fact, many species of dinosaurs are only known from a few sets of incomplete skeletal remains. This specimen appears to be mostly intact, but the bulk of it is still buried in rock. The team expects to spend several more years carefully removing rock from around the fossils. Hopefully, the remains include intact femurs or humorous bones. From these, researchers will be able to make an accurate estimate of the animal’s size. When that happens, this unnamed creature might take the crown as the largest known dinosaur.