Futalognkosaurus-A True Titan Of Time

One evening in June 2012, several long trucks parked on the front of the Royal Ontario Museum’s plaza, destined to change the building forever. While the sliding doors to the main entrance were removed from their rails, large replica fossils were lifted from their containers and readied for transportation into the building. On lookers pulled out their phones to snap photos, and media personalities spoke animatedly to their camera operators- you see, the largest dinosaur ever put on display in Canada, one of the biggest dinosaurs ever found, was about to be erected- in a single night. 

A More Accurate Picture Of A Giant
Futalognkosaurus, a type of long neck herbivorous dinosaur that lived in Argentina over 80 million year ago, is incredibly important to palaeontology due to its relatively complete fossil record. Unlike many other giant dinosaurs, which are based of few bones, about 70% of Futalognkosaurus is known. As so much is known about the dinosaur, palaeontologists are able to more accurately recreate the missing parts of the body, thus creating a much more realistic portrayal of the animal. While dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus, and the recently announced 80,000 kilogram titanosaur, may hold the record for biggest land animal ever due to a few giant fossils, Futalognkosaurus is the most complete of any of these dinosaurs, giving us a much more descriptive look into the past. 

More Information

Brian Switek has three great pieces on Futalognkosaurus here! 

Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: June 2nd, 2014. 

Jade and Silk Forest, Loana Riboli, 2010

In the fog of morning, trees and futalognkosaur legs blend into one forest. Macrogryphosaurus scampers between them both, oblivious to the difference between flesh and wood. When the sauropods move—legs swinging in slow, deliberate gaits—it seems as though whole sections of the forest are strolling away.

The giant chief lizard, Futalognkosaurus (2007)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Suborder : Sauropodomorpha
Superfamily : Titanosauria
Genus : Futalognkosaurus
Species : F. dukei

  • Late Cretaceous (87 Ma)
  • 26 m long and 75 000 kg (size)
  • South America (map)

Its fossils were found in the Neuquén province of Argentina in 2000, and were scientifically described in 2007. The genus name is derived from the local indigenous language Mapudungun and is pronounced foo-ta-long-koh-sohr-us: “futa” means “giant” and “lognko” means “chief”. It is based on three fossil specimens, yielding an estimated 70% of the skeleton in total. The fossil team described the find as “the most complete giant dinosaur known so far”.

In their phylogenetic analysis, Calvo and colleagues found Futalognkosaurus to be a member of the Titanosauridae (or Lithostrotia, depending on the definitions being used), and most closely related to Mendozasaurus. They defined a new clade for the group containing both Futalognkosaurus and Mendozasaurus, their common ancestor, and all descendants, which they named the Lognkosauria. The authors found Malawisaurus to be the sister group of this new clade. Another, much later member of Lognkosauria is the colossal Puertasaurus, which may be the biggest dinosaur so far known. Besides Futalognkosaurus, other fauna was discovered in the Futalognko site, including two further undescribed sauropod taxa, specimens of Megaraptor, Unenlagia and some pleurodiran turtles

Meet a Mount #5: Futalognkosaurus

Taxon: Futalognkosaurus dukei

Specimen Number: Cast based on MUCPv-323

Year Created: 2012

Dimensions: 110 ft long

Futalognkosaurus was discovered in Argentina by paleontologist Jorge Calvo in his team, and is the largest dinosaur known from reasonably complete remains. Although there are several dinosaur species projected to be larger than Futalognkosaurus, they are only known from a handful of skeletal elements. As such, amount of Futalognkosaurus requires considerably less extrapolation and fewer sculpted elements than a mount of Argentinosaurus or Sauroposeidon. 

In 2012, the Royal Ontario Museum commissioned Research Casting International, today’s industry leaders in museum-caliber fossil mounts, to create more than twenty new mounts for their “Ultimate Dinosaurs” exhibition, including the giant Futalognkosaurus. The sauropod manufactured by RCI, based on three Futalognkosaurus partial skeletons that reside in Argentina, is by necessity a cast. It is made of several “chunks”, combining multiple bones into single casted pieces for ease of transportation and assembly. The crew at the ROM reportedly were able to unload and assemble the sauropod mount in a single night. 

The Futalognkosaurus, which was the largest dinosaur mount yet displayed in North America,stood in the main lobby of the ROM until March 2013. “Ultimate Dinosaurs” has since started traveling, and is next scheduled to appear in Minneapolis, although it is unclear whether Futalognkosaurus will be included.

Photos from RomKids.

Futalognkosaurus (dukei )
Name means: Giant chief lizard
Period: Late Cretaceous (80 mya)
Length: 100 ft (20 M)
Weight: 50-75 tons

A titanosaur that lived in the tropical region of Patagonia. Three fossil specimens have been discovered so far, which make up about 70% of the completed skeleton.

Notable about this dinosaur are its large, shark-fin shaped neural spines on its vertebrae. It also had large hips, about 9.8 ft (3 M) wide. This dinosaur is believed to have rivaled the Argentinosaurus in size.

A herbivorous dinosaur, this one coexisted with other sauropods, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, fish, and plants, which is represented by the large variety of fossils discovered in the same area as Futalognkosaurus.

(Image taken from commons.wikimedia.org)

(Futalognkosaurus dukei specimen at ROM, photo by me. Ignore the sunfish in the window.)

Futalognkosaurus dukei was a titanosaurian sauropod from Cretaceous Argentina and, fortunately for us, they had a propensity to be very well preserved through fossilization.

Near-complete skeletons of large sauropods are almost impossible to find, since bigger animals aren’t as easily covered by the sediment needed to preserve them as fossils. Yet despite this, peleontologists have found about 70% of Futalognkosaurus, making it the most complete sauropod known to science. 

It also happens to be one of the biggest, measuring in at a massive 26 metres. Futalognkosaurus also had very tall neural spines, which form the distinct shark-fin shapes along its neck.