A new species of titanosaur, discovered in Patagonia three years ago and perhaps the largest known dinosaur to have existed, was formally bestowed a new name Wednesday: Patagotitan mayorum.
The name translates as giant from Patagonia, paleontologist Diego Pol told an unveiling ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where a cast of the colossal creature has been on display since 2016 — so huge that its head and neck extend into a lobby.
Mayorum was selected after the name of the family on whose Argentinian ranch the remains of the giant herbivore — which would have lived 100 million years ago — were excavated in 2014.
The young adult is thought to have weighed up to 70 tons — as much as 10 African elephants.
Its age suggested even larger animals could have lived on Patagonia at the time, said paleontologist Diego Pol from the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio in Trelew, who helped lead the excavation.
When the cast was unveiled in New York in January 2016, experts said the species was too new a discovery for it to have a name.
Twenty months of intensive research have since concluded that it was indeed a new species worthy of a new name, after comparing the bone discoveries with those of others unearthed elsewhere in the world.
“We think this dinosaur was slightly larger than other dinosaurs previously known,” said Pol, although he conceded that the fragmentary remains from some species made precise estimates difficult.
“Giving a scientific name is the symbol of conducting and finishing a scientific study in which we actually learn something from a new species,” he told the event in New York by Skype from Patagonia.
“New species are important because they show us how animals were in the past,” he said. “They can offer information for answering questions about the past of our planet.”
Pol said “the million-dollar question” was finding out “what happened 100 million years ago in Patagonia” that allowed these animals to be “contenders for the heavy weight championships of dinosaurs.”
He previously called the 2014 discovery a “once in a lifetime” moment.
In total 223 fossil bones from six of the creatures were discovered at the site near La Flecha, 135 miles (216 kilometers) west of Trelew, in northeastern Patagonia.
All of them were young adults. The species lived in the forests of what is now Patagonia during the Late Cretaceous period.
As the fossils would have been too heavy to mount, the colossal 122-foot (37.2-meter) cast is made up of 3D fibreglass prints of the bones. DM