World’s largest discovered dinosaur goes on display at London's Natural History Museum


Think that Tyrannosaurus rex was the largest dinosaur to have ever roamed the surface of the earth? Well, London’s Natural History Museum is now displaying the remains of the largest dinosaur ever discovered, and no, it isn’t the T-Rex.

People have always been fascinated by dinosaurs, mainly thanks to the Jurassic Park movies. However, because most people learnt about dinosaurs from a series of films released over 20 or so odd years ago, their knowledge of dinosaurs is very limited, unless of course, they are into palaeontology in some way.

Also read: Explained: The special bones that allowed dinosaurs to fly

Meet the titan – Patagotitan mayorum
The Natural History Museum’s new dinosaur is the heaviest mammal ever to roam our world, weighing 57 tonnes and extending 121 feet from head to tail. The sheer size of this titanosaur, named Patagotitan mayorum, makes other prehistoric species look puny.

That necessitated meticulous planning by museum specialists, who could only just accommodate the replica skeleton inside their huge 30ft-high Waterhouse Gallery. The species was discovered in 2010 by an Argentine farmer who discovered a massive dinosaur bone sticking out of the arid ground.

It turned out to be a femur or the main bone from the thigh. The femur from the Patagotitan measures nearly 8ft long and weighs around 500 kilogrammes on its own.

Approximately 280 bones from six Patagotitan people were gathered and merged to form a nearly complete skeleton. Argentina’s experts used 3D scanners to create a digital duplicate before making a life-sized version out of polyester resin and fibreglass.

Also read: Toys for the rich: Do multimillion-dollar dinosaur auctions erode trust in science?

The valuable cargo was transported in 32 boxes and two aircraft to the Natural History Museum, where it will now make its European premiere.

Setting up the display
When it walked the Earth 101 million years ago, a real-life Patagotitan would have weighted the equal of nine African elephants, but its replica skeleton is only a fraction of the weight. At 2.67 tonnes, however, extreme caution was still required when setting up the display.

Professor Paul Barrett, the museum’s chief dinosaur expert, explained, “It’s so big, we had to reinforce the floor.”

Part of the discussion about how it fits in the area revolved around where to place it in relation to the strongest sections of the floor. “In an exhibition, the centrepiece is typically the last item that goes in, but we had to put this first and then construct everything around it,” said Barrett

“But it’s just amazing, utterly stunning,” she says. “I’m used to seeing big dinosaur bones, but seeing this is a real, breathtaking experience for me.” she added

“It’s the biggest dinosaur ever on exhibit here,” says the curator. And not just any dinosaur, but one of the candidates for the title of largest animal ever to exist.

The display also includes the original Patagotitan femur bone, a fossilised egg, and even fossilised faeces, all of which help viewers comprehend what life was like for the world’s largest dinosaur. A close-up of one of the tailbones shows a deep scrape caused by a sharp tooth cutting through the titanosaur’s skin and into the tailbone.

Scientists are unsure whether this gouge was made during an assault by a predator – most likely a big carnivorous beast called Tyrannotitan – or by a scavenger after it perished.

Life of a Patagotitan
Being such a massive beast necessitated a massive food, and Patagotitans consumed 129kg of rough, spiky vegetation every day, the equal of 516 round lettuces. Experts think this ancient beast filled its cavernous maw before gulping down leaves whole because animals that chewed their food could not have such a lengthy neck.

Also read: Dinosaur species were already in decline much before meteor strike, says study

“Throughout the exhibition, we explore how these relatively unknown dinosaurs were able to exist at such an astonishing size, and we hope visitors will revel in the childlike delight that comes with standing next to a creature like Patagotitan,” said Dr Alex Burch, Director of Public Programmes at the museum.

“To see it is to be humbled by the natural world’s overwhelming grandeur and dynamism,” he added.

The museum’s curators hope that the display will inspire people to safeguard the world’s largest animals. “There is nothing that comes close to Patagotitan roaming the Earth today, so in this instance, seeing is believing,” Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum.

From elephants and rhinoceros to blue whales, the big creatures we share the world with today continue to play important ecological roles, but they are increasingly at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and other catastrophic human effects,” he added.

The show will be available to the public from March 31, 2023 to January 20, 2024.

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World’s largest discovered dinosaur goes on display at London's Natural History Museum
World’s largest discovered dinosaur goes on display at London's Natural History Museum
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