Archive for Friday, June 1, 2001

Fossils of massive dinosaur unearthed

June 1, 2001

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Fossil-hunters working on a prehistoric tidal flat in what is now the Egyptian Sahara have found the remains of an enormous, previously unknown creature that appears to be the second-largest dinosaur ever discovered.

The long-necked plant-eater lived 90 million years ago, weighed between 60 and 70 tons and may have been 100 feet long, according to Joshua Smith, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student who led the team that discovered the fossil. It died in salt water shallows 180 miles southwest of modern Cairo, in a habitat that was much like today's Florida Everglades.

The Penn-led team, reporting its findings in today's issue of the journal Science, named their discovery Paralititan, in honor of German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, who in the early 1900s first explored the Bahariya oasis where the new discovery was made. Paralititan means "tidal giant." The discovery helps scientists fill in evolutionary gaps by adding a new species of large dinosaur to Africa's fossil record.

Paralititan is close to the biggest dinosaur ever found, and may be second only to Argentinosaurus, a South American herbivore that weighed more than 100 tons. Researchers calculated the size of Paralititan from fragments of 16 bones, including shoulderblades, ribs, pelvis, vertebrae and two 67-inch upper forelimbs, Smith said.

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