It's a dinosaur so big that one of the world’s largest museums can barely contain the giant.

Last week, on its fossil-filled fourth floor, New York's American Museum of Natural History unveiled a full-sized cast of what’s being hailed as the largest dinosaur ever found. It’s so large that it doesn’t totally fit in the exhibit hall, and so the dinosaur’s head and part of its neck peek out from under a doorway.



The enormous herbivore doesn’t yet have an official name. Discovered in 2012 by a rancher near La Flecha, Patagonia and excavated by palaeontologists two years later, the 100-million-year-old dinosaur is so new that no formal study of its bones has yet been published. For now, it's simply being called The Titanosaur.

Based on the jumbled remains from the discovery site, estimates say the entire animal would have stretched 122 feet long (37 metres) and weighed about 70 tons. If those impressive figures stand up to future research, The Titanosaur would stomp ahead as the frontrunner in the [mostly friendly] my-dinosaur-is-bigger-than-yours contest that palaeontologists have been waging for over a century. Here’s a look at some of the previous record-holders, some of which may still be in the running for that coveted title.

Amphicoelias fragillimus

A. fragillimus and tiny human. Image based on illustration by Matt Martyniuk, Wikimedia Commons.

Named: 1878

Length: Unknown, estimated at 190 feet

No one really knows how big this dinosaur was. Or even if it deserved its own name. It was originally described by Edward Drinker Cope from a piece of vertebra said to be about five feet tall but that bone disappeared about 100 years ago. Estimates based on Cope’s original figures have suggested that Amphicoelias could have been up to 190 feet (58 metres) long, but researchers have recently questioned the accuracy of Cope’s original report. And let's not forget that no one has ever found any more bones belonging to this Jurassic mystery.

Apatosaurus (or Brontosaurus) excelsus

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An artistic reconstruction of Brontosaurus. Image: Davide Bonadonna

Named: 1879

Length: About 72 feet

Cope wasn’t the only palaeontologist after big game. His nemesis, Othniel Charles Marsh, was also racing to notch up new finds, and in 1879 he described what was the largest, most complete sauropod dinosaur skeleton yet found: the taxonomically tortured Brontosaurus. Working in the Jurassic rock of Como Bluff, Wyoming, Marsh’s field workers uncovered a partial skeleton including much of the neck, limbs, a large portion of the tail, ribs and other pieces. And while Marsh didn’t assemble the skeleton (museums rarely reconstructed dinosaurs in those days), he estimated that his Brontosaurus was 70 to 80 feet long (21-24 metres).

Diplodocus carnegii

Image: La Singularidad Desnuda, Flickr

Named: 1901

Length: 84 feet 

In 1898, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie spotted a newspaper story about the discovery of an immense dinosaur in Wyoming – and he quickly resolved to secure it for his new natural history museum in Pittsburgh. When attempts to buy the supersized fossil failed, a team of palaeontologists was deployed to find Carnegie another skeleton … and they did! Not only did they uncover a Diplodocus skeleton that included about 60 percent of the animal’s bones, but their find also turned out to be a new species. It was named Diplodocus carnegii, in honour of their benefactor. The reconstructed skeleton stretched 84 feet (26 metres) long and Carnegie was so proud of his Jurassic baby that he commissioned multiple casts of the skeletons that still stand at many museums around the world

Brachiosaurus altithorax

Image: ДиБгд, Wikimedia Commons

Named: 1903

Length: About 85 feet 

The title of “biggest dinosaur” wasn’t all about length. In 1903, palaeontologist Elmer Riggs discovered a partial dinosaur skeleton in western Colorado, naming it Brachiosaurus altithorax. The name Brachiosaurus “arm lizard” is a clue to the creature's most outstanding feature. 

Most of the giant sauropods discovered up to this point were long and relatively low-slung. But the anatomy of Brachiosaurus suggested that its chest was held high off the ground thanks to very long forelimbs, the neck towering even higher into the air. Unfortunately, we don’t know its exact size. Remains are very rare and palaeontologists have had to rely on its relatives to fill in the gaps, coming up with about 85 feet (30 metres) in length and up to 35 tons. Still, given that just the upper arm bone of Riggs’s Brachiosaurus was over six feet (two metres) long, it’s no wonder this dinosaur was sometimes hailed as the biggest ever.

Supersaurus vivianae

Image: LadyofHats, Wikimedia Commons

Named: 1985

Length: About 108-112 feet 

Supersaurus has been a frontrunner for the biggest dinosaur of all time since its discovery. Its bones were first found in the Jurassic rock of Dry Mesa, Colorado in 1972. While confusion surrounded the remains for a while, new analyses and additional fossils have shown that Supersaurus was indeed a distinct dinosaur and certainly one of the biggest ever. Sadly, it loses out to its competitors when it comes to weight. While very long, Supersaurus was a relatively trim 35 to 40 tons rather than the 80+ tons of its rivals.

Bruhathkayosaurus matleyi

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Named: 1989

Length: Unknown, estimated at 115 feet or more

Bruhathkayosaurus may be the biggest dinosaur you’ve never heard of. That’s because, like Amphicoelias, no one knows where it is. Parts of the hip and limbs were found in India in the 1980s, and these huge bones were allegedly big enough to surpass even some of the current heavy-hitters. But the remains were paltry, and what's more, their whereabouts are currently unknown, making it impossible to verify the original dimensions. So Bruhathkayosaurus might have been the biggest dinosaur ever ... or maybe it’s just another overinflated giant. Palaeontologists will have to find another one in order to find out.

Diplodocus (“Seismosaurus”) hallorum

Image: Dmitry Bogdanov, Wikimedia Commons

Named: 1991

Size: About 110 feet 

Like many of the giants on this list, this one has a troubled history. In 1991, the dinosaur was announced to the world as Seismosaurus the “earth shaker lizard” and its size was estimated at a whopping 177 feet (54 metres). But as was the case with many of the biggest dinos, this estimate was made by sizing up more complete skeletons to the scale of the partial Seismosaurus remains and some errors inevitably snuck in. Since its announcement, the dinosaur originally called Seismosaurus has been downsized to about 110 feet (34 metres), and is now recognised as a species of Diplodocus.

Argentinosaurus huinculensis

Image: An Argentinosaurus huinculensis reconstruction at a museum in Argentina. Image: W Sellers, L Margetts, R Coria & P Manning, Wikimedia Commons

Named: 1993

Length: Estimated at about 98 feet 

Argentinosaurus was a favourite in the size race for a while – and, ironically, that's because not very much of the giant has yet been found. The known remains for this dinosaur include only a few vertebrae from the neck and back, ribs and two partial leg bones. To be sure, the bones are massive, but we don't really know precisely how massive. Experts using different techniques to estimate size have come up with figures ranging from 72 to 130 feet (22-40 metres) in length and 66 to 110 tons.

Futalognkosaurus dukei

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Futalognkosaurus pictured on the left. Image: Maurilio Oliveira.

Named: 2007

Size: About 98 feet

This new challenger hasn’t received as much press as its cousin Argentinosaurus. Found in the Cretaceous rock of Argentina, Futalognkosaurus is probably one of the best-known dinosaur giants. The palaeontologists who uncovered the dinosaur estimate that they were able to recover about 70% of the skeleton, making Futalognkosaurus among the most complete of the known giant dinosaurs. It falls short of The Titanosaur’s estimated 122 feet, but a dinosaur almost as long as a blue whale is still nothing to sneeze at.


Top header image (with modifications): Phil Dokas, Flickr

Gif credit: American Museum of Natural History/YouTube