Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Yeah, yeah, I'm the late bloomer today. Even the freaking Anchorage Daily News sniffed out the press release before I got a chance to blog on this find. And then Neil and Will post on the topic before me! Ah, I'm just getting slow in my old age. My quarter-century birthday IS around the corner, after all. I would like to think, though, that my post has more interesting pictures. :-)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they've found a new uber-sauropod in Patagonia, where previous record-breakers, Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus, were discovered. The new beastie, who is unfortunately named Futalognkosaurus dukei, is known from (apparently) 70% of its skeleton, making it the best-known Gondwana uber-sauropod. It is a fairly primitive member of the Titanosauria according to the cladistic analysis run by the authors of its description (link at the end of this post). The 70% includes the entire cervical and dorsal series, sacrals, pelvis, ribs, and one caudal vertebrae. The limbs and skull are, sadly, MIA. The authors are estimating the giant's total length at around 32 and 34 meters, which works out to around 105 feet long. Not the longest dinosaur ever, but given its relationship to Puertasaurus and Argentinosaurus, it is among the most massive.

As awesome as mega-sauropods are, the real excitement is that the team discovered an entire ecosytem in Neuquen, including some really exciting new finds. The picture above was scanned directly from the description, and they are: (a) Articulated vertebral column of Futalognkosaurus; (b) tooth of a dromaeosaur; (c) tooth of a carcharodontosaur; (d) tooth of a mesoeucrocodylian; (e) manus of Megaraptor; (f) pubis of Unenlagia paynemili; (g) femur of an iguanodontid; (h) part of an azhdarchoid pterosaur ulna; (i) fish; (j) angiosperm leaves; (k) plant stem; (l) lower jaw of a new notosuchid crocodylomorph; (m) skull of a new maniraptoran; (n) lower jaw of a new iguanodontid.

That's a lot of new stuff! Of note is the manus of Megaraptor, whose true phylogenetic affiliations have been unsteady for years. Based on the new material, Megaraptor is shown to be a basal tetanurine theropod that developed a hypertrophied thumb claw independantly of Laurasian spinosaurs. What it looked like, though, is anyone's guess. The Unenlagia pubis is hypothesized to be a new species, apparently more gracile than the old one. It's unusual to see so much iguanodontid material in Gondwana, and kills the idea that sauropods persisted down there because there was no competition from ornithopods. Crocodylians both marine and terrestrial were in Neuquen, which is really no surprise. That "maniraptoran" skull looks a lot like a dromaeosaur, and if that maxilla looks a lot like a dromaeosaur's. Could it be (gasp) Unenlagia? Same locality, same deposit. I would not be surprised, considering that Unenlagia is largely considered to be an unenlagiine dromaeosaur.

I await more publications on some of these fossils, especially the iguanodont material, new maniraptoran skull, and Megaraptor paw. Oh, and Futalognkosaurus ain't bad, either.

Calvo, J. O., Porfiri, J. D., Gonzalez-Riga, B. J. & Kellner, A. W.A. (2007). A new Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystem from Gondwana with the description of a new sauropod dinosaur. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias 79(3): 529-541.

P.S. Remember when I went on that big rant about how I hate it when people name animals after place names? Like Albertaceratops? Well, Futalognkosaurus is actually named after the corporation who sponsored the dig, Duke Energy. Hence, F. dukei. I'm not sure how I feel about this quite yet. I'm a bit leery, though, and we'll have to see how far this is taken. As Neil points out, F. dukei is not the first dinosaur to be named after a backer with deep pockets, and the practice does not seem to be widespread. But it does seem lazy, doesn't it?


Verdakk said...

Well, at least F. Dukei is easy to remember. I probably couldn't remember Futalognkosaurus if I had it written on the back of my hand.

luke said...

hmm....seems like you have way to much free time bro. glad to see your still passionate about somethings. anyway, i'm gonna be coming home sooner than i thought. yeah, i know, this is kinda off topic of the post, but just bear with me, okay? but on the point of F. Dukei, why does it seem that as time goes on, the names become more and more difficult to pronounce? they seriously need to fix that.

Will Baird said...

Ah, I'm just getting slow in my old age. My quarter-century birthday IS around the corner, after all.

Frack! Only 25 and complaining about old age? Duuuuuuuuuuuuude.

25. 1999. A year of recovery. :)

Amanda said...

25 isn't so bad. It's a boring age...but nothing negative about it. Old fart.

I have to say that the whole dino naming after corporations thing is kinda annoying, but then again, Quetzelcoatlus northropi was named after Northrop Grumman and I now have the luxury of pretending it was named after me (last name Northrop). So....eh.

Erik said...

I love it. Letter h) incredibly-hard-to-pronounce-name-from-hell-osaurus. Letter i) fish.
Cracks me up. :P