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Newly-Discovered Dinosaur May Be the Largest Land Animal in History

If you’re a dinosaur, or almost any other kind of vertebrate, the femur is probably the largest and most durable bone in your body. If palaeontologists find fossilized remains of one of your bones in 100 million years, it will probably be your femur. And you can tell a lot from looking at a femur—they will usually give you a pretty good approximation of a human being’s proportions, for example. Or a dinosaur’s.

So when local farmers alerted Argentinian palaeontologists Jose Luis Carballido and Diego Pol to a very large fossilized femur roughly 100 million years old, the scientists did the math and found that they’d discovered a new species of dinosaur. A very big new species of dinosaur.

A nearly life-sized model of an Argentinosaurus from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science. The new dinosaur, which has not yet been named, is suspected to resemble a much larger Argentinosaurus. Photo: © 2013 Zachi Evenor. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0.

A nearly life-sized model of an argentinosaurus, from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. The new dinosaur, which has not yet been named, is suspected to resemble a much larger argentinosaurus. Photo: © 2013 Zachi Evenor. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0.

Assuming initial calculations hold out, we’re talking about a 150,000-pound behemoth 20 meters (65 feet) tall—about the same height as the Great Sphinx of Giza—and 40 meters (130 feet) long. Its status as the largest land animal in history may be challenging to defend until more bones are found, but it will also be impossible to deny; the fossil is legitimate, the palaeontologists used standard calculations, and no evidence of a larger land animal has ever been found.

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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