The Dinosaur That Feared Nothing
The announcement was nearly 10 years in the making. But when a secret's 77 million years old, what's another decade…
The announcement was nearly 10 years in the making. But when a secret's 77 million years old, what's another decade?
Dr. Ken Lacovara and his team discovered Dreadnoughtus schrani, a 65-ton, supermassive sauropod dinosaur that lived 77 million years ago, in 2005 in southern Patagonia. But describing a giant new species of dinosaur takes time — a lot of time. Hence the need for extreme secrecy. Lacovara, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, finally went public last September in the Nature Publishing Group's journal Scientific Reports.
One remarkable part of the descriptive process is that the team digitally scanned all of the bones and made a virtual mount of the skeleton. The 3D laser scans can be used by researchers everywhere to learn more about Dreadnoughtus's structure, growth rate and biomechanics — without all the heavy lifting.
"It democratizes the process," says Lacovara. "So if you're a scientist in another part of the world and you don't have the budget to get to a museum to see Dreadnoughtus, now you can get your virtual hands on the same thing my students and I see in the laboratory here."
Although Dreadnoughtus is not officially the largest animal to roam the Earth, it is certainly a contender. The title these fossil bones can claim is that they make up the most complete skeleton ever found of this kind. Unearthed were most of the vertebrae from the 30-foot-long tail, a neck vertebra with a diameter of over a yard, numerous ribs, toes, a claw and nearly all the bones from both forelimbs and hindlimbs, which are must-haves for calculating the animal's mass.