Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 97–94Ma
|Reconstructed skeleton of Argentinosaurus huinculensis at the Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Germany|
Bonaparte & Coria, 1993
|Species:||† A. huinculensis|
Bonaparte & Coria, 1993
Argentinosaurus is a genus of titanosaur sauropod dinosaur first discovered by Guillermo Heredia in Argentina. The generic name refers to the country in which it was discovered. The dinosaur lived on the then-island continent of South America somewhere between 97 and 94 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Epoch.
Not much of Argentinosaurus has been recovered. The holotype included three anterior dorsal vertebrae, three posterior dorsal vertebrae, first to fifth sacrum vertebrae (only the ventral sector of the vertebral bodies), most of the sacral ribs of the right side, great part of a fragmented dorsal rib, and the right tibia. One vertebra had a length of 1.59 meters (spine to the ventral border) and the tibia was about 155 centimeters (58 inches). Besides these, an incomplete femur (MLP-DP 46-VIII-21-3) is assigned to Argentinosaurus; this incomplete femur shaft has a minimal circumference of about 1.18 meters. The proportions of these bones and comparisons with other sauropod relatives allow paleontologists to estimate the size of the animal.
An early reconstruction by Gregory S. Paul estimated Argentinosaurus at between 30–35 metres (98–115 ft) in length and with a weight of up to 80–100 tonnes (88–110 short tons).  Other estimates have compared the fragmentary material to relatively complete titanosaurs to help estimate the size of Argentinosaurus. In 2006 Carpenter used the more complete Saltasaurus as a guide and estimated Argentinosaurus at 30 metres (98 ft) in length. An unpublished estimate used published reconstructions of Saltasaurus, Opisthocoelicaudia, and Rapetosaurus as guides and gave shorter length estimates of between 22–26 metres (72–85 ft). Weight estimates are less common, but Mazzetta et al. (2004) provide a range of 60–88 tonnes (66–97 short tons), and consider 73 tonnes (80 short tons) to be the most likely, making it the heaviest sauropod known from good material.
Classification and history
The type species of Argentinosaurus, A. huinculensis, was described and published in 1993 by the Argentinian palaeontologists José F. Bonaparte and Rodolfo Coria. Its more specific time-frame within the Cretaceous is the late Cenomanian faunal stage, ~96 to 94 million years ago. The fossil discovery site is in the Huincul Formation of the Río Limay Subgroup in Neuquén Province, Argentina (the Huincul Formation was a member of the Río Limay Formation according to the naming of the time).
Argentinosaurus is featured prominently in the permanent exhibition Giants of the Mesozoic at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. This display depicts a hypothetical encounter between Argentinosaurus and the carnivorous theropod dinosaur Giganotosaurus. Contemporary fossils of Cretaceous Period plants and animals are included in the exhibition, including two species of pterosaurs, providing a snapshot of a prehistoric ecosystem in what is now the modern Patagonia region of Argentina. At 37 m (121 ft) long, this skeletal reconstruction represents the largest dinosaur mount ever to be assembled.
- (Spanish)Bonaparte J, Coria R (1993). "Un nuevo y gigantesco sauropodo titanosaurio de la Formacion Rio Limay (Albiano-Cenomaniano) de la Provincia del Neuquen, Argentina". Ameghiniana 30 (3): 271–282.
- Mazzetta, Gerardo V.; Christiansen, Per; Fariña, Richard A. (2004). "Giants and Bizarres: Body Size of Some Southern South American Cretaceous Dinosaurs" (PDF). Historical Biology 16 (2-4): 71–83. doi:10.1080/08912960410001715132. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Paul, Gregory S. (Fall 1994). "Big Sauropods - Really, Really Big Sauropods". The Dinosaur Report. The Dinosaur Society. pp. 12–13.
- Paul, Gregory S. (1997). "Dinosaur models: the good, the bad, and using them to estimate the mass of dinosaurs". In Wolberg, D. L.; Stump, E.; Rosenberg, G. D. DinoFest International Proceedings. The Academy of Natural Sciences. pp. 129–154.
- Carpenter, Kenneth (2006). "Biggest of the Big: A Critical Re-Evaluation of the Mega-Sauropod Amphicoelias fragillimus Cope, 1878". In Foster, John R.; Lucas, Spencer G. Paleontology and Geology of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation 36. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin. pp. 131–138.
- Mortimer, Mickey (2001-09-12). "Titanosaurs too Large?". Dinosaur Mailing List. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- (Spanish) Bonaparte J, Coria R (1993). "Un nuevo y gigantesco sauropodo titanosaurio de la Formacion Rio Limay (Albiano-Cenomaniano) de la Provincia del Neuquen, Argentina". Ameghiniana 30 (3): 271–282.
- Haines, Tim & Chambers, Paul. (2006) The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life. Canada: Firefly Books Ltd.
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