Titanosaurs

By | September 9, 2016

Named after the Titans, a race of giants in Greek mythology, titanosaurs were among the heaviest animals ever to walk on Earth. They were also among the last of the dinosaurs. Titanosaurs were plant eaters and probably lived in herds to protect themselves against predators. The discovery of thousands of eggs scattered across a vast area in Argentina suggests that they also nested together.

FAMILY FACT FILE

Key features
■ Small, wide heads and flexible necks
■ Small teeth
■ Long tails, but shorter than diplodocoids
■ Walked on all four legs
■ Many had tough armor plates of bone covering their bodies

When
Titanosaurs first appeared in the Middle Jurassic, 168 million years ago. They died out in the Late Cretaceous, 65 million years ago. They were first thought to be restricted to the southern hemisphere, but are now known to have been more widespread.

Nemegtosaurus (nem-EGG-toe-SORE-us)

nemegtosaurus


When: 80–65 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)

Fossil location: Mongolia

Habitat: Woodlands

Length: 50 ft (15 m)

Diet: Plants

Nemegtosaurus was named after the Nemegt Basin—in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia—where it was first discovered. Only its skull was found, which shows that it may have had a sloping head and small, peg-shaped teeth at the front of its jaws. Like most other titanosaurs, its neck was probably long and flexible, allowing it to feed on high tree branches.

Argentinosaurus (ARE-jen-teen-oh-SORE-us)

argentinosaurus


When: 112–95 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)

Fossil location: Argentina

Habitat: Forested areas

Length: 100 ft (30 m)

Diet: Conifers

Argentinosaurus was one of the largest and heaviest land animals ever. Only a few bones have been found, including some enormous, 6 ft (1.8 m) tall spine bones. By comparing these to other sauropods, scientists have calculated that Argentinosaurus was longer than a tennis court and nearly 20 times heavier than an elephant. Its eggs were the size of footballs, so it probably took around 40 years to reach adult size. Despite its massive size, it was hunted by Mapusaurus, a giant flesh-eating dinosaur.

Titanosaurus (tie-TAN-oh-SORE-us)

titanosaur


When: 80–65 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)

Fossil location: Asia, Europe, Africa

Habitat: Woodlands

Diet: Plants

Titanosaurus is something of a mystery. Even though discovery of its tail bones led to a whole family of dinosaurs being named after it, it is probably a case of mistaken identity. The features that once marked it out as a unique species have since been found in other titanosaurs. Without a full skull and skeleton to examine, it is hard to say whether the species actually existed.

Saltasaurus (SALT-ah-SORE-us)

saltasaurus


When: 80–65 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)

Fossil location: Argentina

Habitat: Woodlands

Length: 40 ft (12 m)

Diet: Plants

This relatively small titanosaur was well protected against attack. Large predators couldn’t rip open its thick armored hide, which had plates and studs made of bone. Its strong hips and wide upper-tail bones suggest that it may have been able to stand on its hind legs, using its tail to prop itself up. However, Saltasaurus had no toes or claws on its front feet.

Isisaurus (ISS-ee-SORE-us)

isisaurus


When: 70–65 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)

Fossil location: Asia

Habitat: Woodlands

Length: 60 ft (18 m)

Diet: Plants

With its long front legs and shorter neck, Isisaurus differed from other titanosaurs by standing more like a hyena. Its fossilized dung contained fungi found on many types of leaf. This suggests that it sampled leaves from different trees.

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