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Dinosaur researchers have had a prolific time, uncovering and bringing to the world two new dinosaur species. These dinos were found on completely separate continents; Dreadnoughtus schrani was uncovered almost piece by piece in South America’s Argentina, and Rukwaititan was pulled from its rocky burial in Africa’s Tanzania.
The two discovered dinosaurs are classified as sauropods, or giant quadrupeds possessing long necks and tails. They also fall under the family Titanosauria, which are the largest sauropods. In their time, Titansosaurians loomed over all other creatures on earth.
Dreadnoughtus schrani may be the largest dinosaur to have walked on the earth. At 85 feet from nose to tail, it was almost as long as a Boeing 737-9000 jet. It weighed 60,000 kg, or over 65 tons. The skeleton is the most intact one yet found among the giant skeletons, with approximately 70 percent of its bones recovered.
The specimen weighed the equivalent of ten to twelve African elephants, or times seven of Tyrannosaurus rex. Despite its “house-sized” frame, there is evidence to suggest that the specimen found had not yet even reached its full size.
Philadelphian paleontologists were the ones to uncover Dreadnoughtus. Ken Lacovara of Drexel University, the team leader, personally discovered the first fossil of the dinosaur. He gave it the name Dreadnoughtus, which means “fears nothing.” His intention was to invoke the 20th century steel Dreadnought battleships. Lacovara claimed that it is time for the herbivore dinosaurs to “get their due.”
The other recently announced discovery, Rukwatitan bisepultus, lived on what is now the modern-day African continent. While it was not as massive as Dreadnoughtus, it was still among the largest of dinosaurs. Despite its size, its head was small.
Most Titanosaurian fossils, like those of Dreadnoughtus, have been found in South America. In fact, over 30 Titanosaurs have been discovered in South America, while only four Titanosaurians have been uncovered so far in Africa. This new fossil discovery makes the find even more significant for African dinosaurs.
The fossils were discovered in the wall of the Rukwa Basin, located in Tanzania. Ribs, pelvic bones, limbs and vertebrae were dug out by a team of excavators and local coal miners. The Titanosaur was named after the basin in which was found.
While Rukwatitan bears some similarities to another African Titanosaur, Malawisaurus dixeyi, it is its own unique species. However, like Malawisaurus, it is very distinct from the Titanosaurians in the North of Africa.
Titanosaurians are named after the ancient gods of Greek mythology. The Titans were deities who dominated the earth before the Olympian gods. Led by Zeus, the Olympians overthrew the Titans and sent them to the Underworld.
The word “Titanosaur” has roots in both the Greek and Latin languages. In the modern vernacular the word implies great size and scope of one’s abilities. “Saur” comes from the Greek “sauros,” which means “lizard,” while “sauria” from the Latin denotes a creature of the reptilian order. Titanosaur can be translated as “great lizard.”
The two new dinosaurs are on an exclusive list of giants among giants. Both specimens still have a lot to teach us about pre-historical Earth, and the former creatures that walked it.
By Jillian Moyet