By Amy Nutt
Patagonia has become synonymous with 'giant' discoveries of the prehistoric world. Dinosaurs that dwarf their contemporaries are found here frequently and paleontologists are flocking to the region to unearth them.
Giganotosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur at 45-feet-long, was dug up in this region along with a number of other massive Sauropods and Titanosaurs (herbivorous dinosaurs).
What Is The Largest Dinosaur Ever Found?
At the moment there are three dinosaurs, which are contenders for the largest dinosaur ever found. Incredibly all three were found in the Patagonian region sparking revelations that the Titanosaurids roamed the earth for a lot longer than previously thought.
Titanosaurs are the largest recorded creatures to have ever walked the earth.
Belonging to a branch of the Sauropod family these giants were large, long-necked plant eaters that walked on four feet and flourished in the southern latitudes. They had relatively small heads compared to other Sauropods and their backbones were not hollowed out like the rest of this family. Many paleontologists believe this species moved in herds and fossilized remains show an armored, scaled skin covering their bodies. All of the largest dinosaurs on record belong to this species.
Before the relatively recent discoveries in South America scientists had believed this species died out before the mass extinction of their smaller counterparts. Now they have evidence that this large family group survived in Patagonia up until the end of the Cretaceous period. They were the most widely distributed dinosaurs on the planet.
The first of the big three to be discovered, the 115 feet long, 100 ton Argentinosaurus was a heavy hitter in the Cretaceous period about 85 million years ago. An herbivorous animal it survived on plants and used its extraordinarily long neck to reach juicy foliage.
Pieces of Argentinosaurus were first unearthed in 1988 by a farmer named Guillermo Heredia in Argentina. All in all, about 10 percent of the skeleton was recovered, the vertebra being the largest ever found at 5 feet high.
In 2001 excavation began on the fossilized remains of another giant Titanosaur discovered by fossil hunters Pablo Puerta and Santiago Reuil in Argentina's Santa Cruz Province. This dinosaur was 115-131 feet long and weighed an astonishing 88-110 tons. About 70 million years old, the neck, back and tailbones were found with large fossilized logs, suggesting this region was a vast forest in prehistoric days.
Paleontologist Fernando Novas announced this important find on July 21st 2006.
An incredible discovery, Futalognkosaurus dukei, is the most complete Titanosaur skeleton ever found. Scientists believe this dinosaur is a completely new species of Titanosaur, its unique neck structure having never been seen before.
This giant measures about 105 feet long with the neck stretching a whopping 56 feet. It lived some 88 million years ago, with the bones first unearthed in 2000 at Lake Barreales in Argentina.
All three of these giants belong to the same family and lived during the same time period. Scientists are unable to determine which dinosaur may have been the biggest as bones discovered from the creatures weren't all the same. For Puertasaurus only a few vertebrae were found and no limb bones were discovered at the Futalognkosaurus site. So unless further fossils are unearthed they will never be able to measure with any degree of accuracy, which is the biggest fossil of them all.
When it comes to species, though, there is a clear and definite answer as to who is the largest. The Titanosaurs named after the mythological Greek Titans are number one.
Looking for information on dinosaurs? Then check out Discovery Channel's dinosaur blog as it has lots of great information on dinosaurs and their prehistoric existence.