Meet Patagotitan mayorum!

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It’s official! The Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur displayed at the Museum, is now known as Patagotitan mayorum. The species’ scientific name, announced this week, was inspired by the region where this new species was discovered, Argentina’s Patagonia (Patago); by its strength and large size (titan), and by the Mayo family on whose ranch the fossils of this new sauropod species were excavated (mayorum).

 

Titanosaur Femur

A team member is dwarfed by a bone of the gigantic dinosaur excavated in Patagonia.

Courtesy of Dr. Alejandro Otero


Discovered in 2014, Patagotitan mayorum’s remains were excavated by a team from the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio led by José Luis Carballido and Diego Pol, who received his Ph.D. degree in a joint program between Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History.

 


The species lived about 100 to 95 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, and represents one of the largest species of titanosaur identified so far. Its 84 fossil pieces comprise one of the most complete titanosaurs ever found and served as the basis for the Museum’s 122-foot-long model.

 

Panoramic view of the entire length of the 122-foot-long Titanosaur cast skeleton, sitting in an empty, darkened hall.

The 122-foot-long Titanosaur waits for visitors in a darkened hall.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


The Museum’s cast of the giant herbivore became an instant hit when—too long for its space in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center—it first put its neck out toward the elevator banks in January 2016 to welcome visitors to the “dinosaur floor.” This individual Patagotitan mayorum, a juvenile of undetermined gender, is estimated by researchers to have weighed 70 tons—as much as 10 African elephants. And it wasn’t done growing! A titan, indeed.

 

Titanosaur Fourth Floor

The Titanosaur now greets visitors to the fourth floor fossil halls.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


The Titanosaur’s scientific name was officially revealed in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In a public event at the Museum unveiling the new species’ scientific name, Dr. Pol addressed an audience of reporters and visitors via Skype from Argentina. He explained that Patagotitan mayorum was close to the maximal limit for terrestrial animals, and what intrigues him and his colleagues now is how these super giants came to cluster in one place and time.

 

Four people hold a sign reading Patagotitan mayorum while Diego Pol smiles on a Skype call displayed on a large screen behind them.

Dr. Diego Pol addresses the audience via Skype.

© AMNH/M. Shanley


“Titanosaurs existed before and after this time, but in Patagonia, this very specific place in southern South America, about 100 million years ago, a subgroup of titanosaurs really went crazy in body size,” said Pol. “There must be something in the environment, in how much resources and food was available, in the climate—something must have allowed this fantastic size. All these contenders for the heavyweight championship of dinosaurs, they all lived in same place, in the same time…understanding why and how these animals evolved into such a fantastic size is the million-dollar question.”