Sauro-size it

April 17, 2011

Torah Kachur

Torah on Location in Bariloche, Argentina.


Big is a matter of degree: a blade of grass is a skyscraper to an ant, the Superbowl is big to Americans but the Argentinosaurus is just plain gigantic.  Argentinosaurus huinculensis is a class of dinosaur called the sauropods and is one of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth.  97-94 million years ago these beasts with freakishly long necks and tiny, Beetlejuice-sized heads were grazing their way across South America.  And now, their fossils are being discovered in Patagonia, in Southern Argentina where an untapped fossil resource is finally being appreciated.


Argentinosaurus huinculensis Argentina dinosaurs Gigantosaurus carolinii


The fossils are being appreciated so much that fossilized dinosaur footprints near Villa El Chocon are often used as barbeque pits.


Argentinosaurus huinculensis weighed approximately 100 tonnes (or 16,000 stone) and were estimated to be as long as 150 feet (or 4.8-15 light years) with a single vertebrae measuring 1.59 meters long - or the size of an average human.  Not many bones have been discovered for this particular class of sauropod but this family of dinosaurs is well known to scientists as being the biggest of the living things to grace this planet.  


How such enormous animals could survive has remained a mystery but some of the few pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.  For example, researchers have found that the sauropods in particular had porous bones so that their necks weren't too heavy to hold up.  And that these dinosaurs had to consume massive amounts of food with limited chewing to not waste energy on food consumption, instead letting their digestive juices do all the work. 


Such big dinosaurs, such small brains.  Estimated brain size of Argentinosaurus - 4 ounces.  About the weight of these hair extensions.  But when you are that big, who needs a brain


How do you size up?  You don't make it past their knee.  That may be hard to imagine, after all, humans are the best and biggest and brightest and bestest creatures to walk the planet.  Just in case you don't believe that anything could make an elephant or a blue whale look like a cookie crumb then visit the American Natural History Museum's new exhibit on the biggest of the biggest dinosaurs to walk the planet.  And take a leap and just try to hit a kneecap of one of these dudes.



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