Was it T-Rex?
T-Rex was certainly one of the largest carnivores in prehistoric times. The largest currently preserved Rex – named “Sue” – reaches 42 feet long. Its skull alone weighs 600 pounds! But was T-Rex the largest?
The goal here is to uncover which dinosaurs were the largest of their respective families. I’ll be looking at three families – the theropods, the sauropods and the ornithopods.
Theropods – Theropods walked on two legs and three-toed feet. Most theropods were carnivorous predators. Rex was a theropod. Perhaps surprisingly, though, T-Rex was not the largest!
That honor belongs to the Spinosaurus – the “spine lizard” – which actually starred in the second Jurassic Park sequel, and out-dueled Rex during one memorable scene. Spinosaurus lived during the Cretaceous period during what is now North Africa. It gained its name from its trademark spines, which could reach over five feet in length. Spinosaurus was about 52-59 feet (16-18 m) long. It was 7-9 tons (7.7-9.9 short tons) in weight.
Sauropods – Sauropods walked on four legs and five-toed feet that resembled clubs. Unlike the theropods, all sauropods were herbivores. Like the theropods, one dinosaur is both the longest and the most massive of the sauropods.
That would be the Amphicoelias – “doubly hollow” – which was named by American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in the late 1800s. Only one late-Jurassic fossil of the Amphicoelias (belonging to the species Amphicoelias fragillimus) has ever been found, and scientists have extrapolated from that bone to obtain the creature’s physical dimensions. It could have reached 131-196 feet (40-60 m) long – over twice the size of Spinosaurus! And it was even more comparatively massive. Amphicoelias could have been up to 122 tons (135 short tons) in weight.
Ornithopods – Befitting their name, ornithopods walked on bird-esque (often, like birds, three-toed) feet. They were all herbivores and developed horny beaks to aid in food processing. Unlike the theropods and sauropods, the ornithopods have split the title of “largest of their number”. One ornithopod stands as the longest, and another stands as the most massive.
The Zhuchengosaurus (“Zhucheng City lizard”), a duck-billed dinosaur that lived in the Cretaceous period in China’s Shandong province, was the longest ornithopod. It was over 54 feet (16.5 m) long – under Amphicoelias, but roughly the size of Spinosaurus.
The Lambeosaurus laticaudus (“Lambe’s lizard”), another duck-billed (and hatchet-crested) dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous in North America (Laticadus, in particular, in Mexico), was the most massive ornithopod. It reached 23 tons (25 short tons). Again, this was below Amphicoelias (as any dinosaur might be) but was multiple times above Spinosaurus.
In conclusion, the largest dinosaurs were:
I know they’re not what I think of when I think of dinosaurs. They’re certainly not the most celebrated of the ancient lizards (excepting Spinosaurus’ turn in Jurassic Park III). Yet they were the largest of their kind, whether by length or by mass. And perhaps, then, they should get more celebration, more recognition. Perhaps Spinosaurus, not Rex, should leap to mind when you think of a dinosaur.
Photo credit: gargouille from morguefile.com
The Bruhathkayosaurus. or the seismosaurus. Basically the dinosaurs that you saw on Jurassic Park that ate the leaves off trees. They were huge!
However, About.com came up with some different answers, which I have never heard of before, but I thought I’d put the link in there for you just so could see what it said.
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