Patagotitan from Argentina arrives at the Natural History Museum in London

Fossils of the ‘Patagotitan mayorum’ were found since the end of 2012 in the Patagonia region of Argentina

A colossus has landed in London directly from Argentina. The skeleton of what was once one of the largest animals to ever walk the Earth is now on display at Britain’s Natural History Museum.

The patagotitan was a dinosaur that lived 100 million years ago in South America.

With a length of 37 m from nose to tail, it could reach a weight of up to 60 or 70 tons.

In addition to presenting a representative skeleton, the Museum also exhibits some of the actual fossil bones discovered for the first time in Argentina in 2014.

The largest is a 2.4 m long femur. It has been placed upright to give visitors an extraordinary selfie opportunity.

“Patagotitan was what we call a sauropod dinosaur,” explained paleontologist Paul Barrett.

“It’s a relative of the diplodocus, which you might be a bit more familiar with. It is one of these large animals with a barrel body and stout legs. It almost looks like a giant elephant crossed with an anaconda snake, with a very long neck and a long tail,” he told the BBC.

The replica skeleton is on loan from Argentina’s Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF), whose staff unearthed the original fossils.

The challenge of riding it
The London museum had to do a lot of thinking to find the best way to display the creature.

It barely fits in its Waterhouse Gallery, its largest exhibition space. Even then, the tail end has had to be folded around a column. The floor also needed to be reinforced, but cleverly the engineers were able to hide some of the supporting armor to make it look like the dinosaur is walking on the carpet. “It’s been quite a challenge, second only to the blue whale that was hung from the ceiling in the museum’s Hintze Room,” said head of technical production Jez Burn. The skeleton is accompanied by many videos and interactive games explaining the life histories of the giant sauropods that lived in the Cretaceous Period of Earth’s history.

He is bigger?
It’s hard to say who exactly was the largest of these titanosaurs, but animals like the patagotitan and another creature called the argentinosaurus were among the first.

“The incredible thing about patagotitan is the amount of dinosaur bones that were found,” said Sinéad Marron, promoter of the exhibition.

“The other giant dinosaurs are known from only a few fragments, while the patagotitan skeleton is known from a couple hundred bones from at least six different individuals. We just know more about Patagotitan than all the other giants.”

Scientists aren’t sure why titanosaurs were so big, but they have a good idea how they developed their massive bulk.

This likely had something to do with the relatively low-quality plant foods available to them, which required a large digestive system to get the most out of them. Essentially, they were giant fermentation tanks on stout legs.