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Thursday, May 29, 2008

article : Huge fossil of new dinosaur found in Patagonia

Brazilian and Argentinean palaeontologists present a replica of a skeleton of what could be a new dinosaur species

Brazilian and Argentinean palaeontologists present a replica of a skeleton of what could be a new dinosaur species. Photograph: Antonio Lacerda/EPA

It was four storeys tall, had a neck 10 times longer than a giraffe's and was possibly history's biggest vegetarian: meet Futalognkosaurus dukei, "chief of the lizards". Brazilian and Argentinian paleontologists yesterday said they had discovered a fossil of a new species of giant dinosaur which lived in what is now Patagonia, 80m years ago, during the late Cretaceous period.

A largely complete fossil of the herbivore shows it measured between 32 to 34 metres (105 to 112ft) from head to tail, and possessed an extraordinary neck which, at 17 metres, was a match for today's articulated bendy buses.

"It's a new species, a new group," an Argentinian paleontologist, Juan Porfiri, told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro. "Its neck was very big in diameter, strong and huge." Jorge Calvo, the director of the paleontology centre of the National University of Comahue, Argentina, said: "This is one of the biggest in the world and one of the most complete of these giants that exist."The fossil, which is believed to belong to a previously unknown species of Titanosaur, is 70% preserved.

The name Futalognkosaurus dukei was derived from the indigenous Mapuche language, meaning "giant chief of the lizards", and from the US company Duke Energy Corp, which funded much of the excavation in Argentina.

Dinosaur experts not involved in the discovery marvelled at the scale and said that what was found on the banks of Lake Barreales in the Argentine province of Neuquen did appear to represent a new species. The tail measures around 15 metres and the excavated spinal column alone weighs about eight tonnes.

Patagonia, a landscape of windswept plain which once was forested and humid, has yielded the other two largest dinosaur skeletons, Argentinosaurus, at around 35 metres long, and Puertasaurus reuili, between 35 and 40 metres long.

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