Science & Technology

Huge Patagonian titanosaur skeleton to go on display at London museum

By Viviana Garcia

London, Mar 29 (EFE).- The titanosaurus, the largest known animal ever to have walked the Earth, didn’t bite or chew its food but rather simply swallowed up to 120 kilograms (264 pounds) of whole plants per day, according to an exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum devoted to Patagotitan mayorum, the giant ancient beast from Argentina’s Patagonia region.

The exposition, which will be open to the public from Friday until next January, features a replica of the skeleton of this colossal animal, whose fossilized remains were found on the La Flecha farm in southern Argentina’s Chubut province in 2010.

The skeleton occupies an entire hall in the museum but its size – 37 meters (121 feet) long and 5 meters (16.4 feet) high – has forced museum organizers to let part of its tail extend outside the room.

Besides the skeleton, museumgoers can also see some of the actual excavated bones – including a shoulder blade, an egg and teeth.

To let people learn how this gigantic dinosaur lived 101 million years ago in what is today southern Argentina, the museum has created an interactive exhibition where visitors will be able to see how titanosaurs arranged their eggs and how the newly hatched nestlings grew quickly to reach immense size, as well as how they survived in their ancient environment.

Visitors walk through a passage with illustrations and explanations before they enter the room with the skeleton, a location that resounds with the roars of an adult titanosaur, or at least scientists’ interpretation of how those cries may have sounded.

According to experts, the animal was a herbivore and each day consumed the equivalent of 1,600 plates of salad, needing at least 10 days to digest what it had eaten.

Weighing approximately 57 tons, equivalent to the weight of nine adult African elephants, female titanosaurs laid up to 40 eggs at a time, but they abandoned them and left the young to grow up on their own and look out for themselves.

Although many of the young beasts died in the unfriendly environment of that epoch, of course enough did survive to become adults and propagate the species.

The huge skeleton is surrounded by artistic illustrations representing the flora and fauna of the Cretaceous Period, and visitors will be able to follow the life cycle of a titanosaur from the time the eggs were laid all the way through to the attainment of adulthood.

The museum has tried to show how the Patagonian environment and the local vegetation was during the time when titanosaur lived, with conifers and other trees and plants, one of the exhibit organizers, dinosaur expert Anna Darron, told EFE.

In 2010, an Argentine farmer found a huge dinosaur bone poking out of the ground and alerted paleontologists, who during their excavation work lasting more than two years found many bones of several titanosaurs at the site.

This allowed them to reconstruct a complete skeleton of the species, which was put on display at the Egidio Feruglio Museum in the Chubut city of Trelew.

The discovery is very exciting because it’s one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever found and many bones were found at the same time. Paleontologists excavated about 281 bones from six individuals, and together they contain a huge amount of information whereby scientists can understand better this incredible creature, Darron added.

To get it to the United Kingdom, the replica skeleton was disassembled, its parts were placed in 32 special boxes and shipped to London from Buenos Aires on two commercial jets.

Once it was at the Natural History Museum, organizers needed two weeks to reassemble the skeleton.

EFE –/bp

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