A technician by the femur of a dinosaur at the Egidio Feruglio Museum, Patagonia (Reuters)
A technician lying down next to the femur of the unnamed behemoth. How long is your femur? Measure it and compare. Photo by Reuters
Text size

The biggest dinosaurs known to man were terrifyingly huge, yet it seems they were mere bestial bagatelles compared with the behemoth whose remains were uncovered in Patagonia last Wednesday.

As yet unnamed, one of its thigh-bones is longer than most humans, leaving the NBA out of it. Extrapolation from said thigh bone indicates that it was some 40-plus meters long.

Put otherwise, the thigh bone uncovered in Argentina last week is the biggest bone ever found. Based on its size, this is the largest known animal to walk on the planet, the scientists behind the discovery, Dr. Jose Luis Carballido and Dr. Diego Pol told the BBC.

Just the week before, paleontologists had unearthed a relatively titchy cousin of this towering titan, Leinkupal laticauda, which was a mere 9 meters in length (lie down on the floor, think of yourself multiplied by say six times and that's how long the midget was, head to tail tip). This smallest of the known diplodocids was also found in Argentina – as was the so-called "Pinocchio-nosed" dinosaur found mere days before.

Based on interpretation of the size, and comparison with other diplodocids, scientists suspect the latest-found animal weighed about 77,000 kilos, or 77 tons. The T-rex, for comparison, is believed to have averaged some 7 tons.
If we say the average human weight is (say) 70 kilos, this newly-found dino weighed as much as 1,100 people. With its neck (and rather small head) upright, say the scientists, it was around 7 stories tall.

Like the other diplodocids, though, it was a herbivore, the scientists say.
As said, the unnamed giant may well have been the biggest animal ever to walk the earth. The previous record had been held by another diplodocus-type dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus, yes, also found in Argentina. It is believed to have weighed some 7,000 kilos less.

Paleontologists Jose Luis Carballido (left) and Ruben Cuneo with what seems to be the biggest bone in the world. Photo by Reuters

Enough about weight. The bone was spotted in 2011 by a local farmer. Digging it out commenced in 2013, and uncovered several skeletons, thought to belong to seven dinosaurs. Beyond the leg bits, the paleontologists also uncovered vertebrae from torso and tail, and parts of the neck.

The diplodocids lived during the Jurassic period, about 90 million years ago. While misunderstandings about their anatomy led to assumptions that they had to live in swampy environments to support their terrific weight, later analysis of their possible standing positions put them back onto dry land. Some believe they used their very long tails as whips to fend off predators.

The Patagonian hillside where a farmer noticed a bone sticking out of the earth. Photo by AP

By the way, the name "diplodocus," which applies to a whole family of dinosaurs, comes from the Greek for "double beam" and is based on their double-beamed chevron bones located on the underside of the tail. Unhappily, other dinosaur families were later discovered to share that tail characteristic, but the name stuck.

No dinosaur remains as such have been discovered in Israel, so far - with the exception of tracks found by the community of Beit Zayit, near Jerusalem.

An artist's rendition of little Leinkupal laticauda using its tail to fend off predators (Jorge Antonio Gonzalez). Photo by Reuters