The Dreadnought Dinosaur

A new, super-sized dinosaur has been discovered, and its name, Dreadnoughtus Schrani, provides some insight into the nature of this large beast, referring to its gigantic size. It was named after the intimidating steel warships that were nearly impervious to attack, according to Ken Lacovara, an associate professor of paleontology and geology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The name dreadnought means “fears nothing”, and schrani honors the entrepreneur, Adam Schran, who financed the project.

Back in May I wrote a related article, but at that time the newly discovered, long-necked herbivore hadn’t been named, and scientists were still examining the fossil. Originally, they thought they had discovered 150 bones from seven of these titanosaurs (a group of sauropod dinosaurs) in southern Argentina, but now the study indicates they have a total of 145 bones from two individuals (115 for the large Dreadnoughtus, and 30 for the smaller one).

The team of scientists reported how confident they were that they had discovered the world’s largest dinosaur, but that turns out not to be the case. Argentinosaurus, another titanosaur from Argentina, is estimated to have weighed around 70 tonnes, measure nearly 130 feet long and stand 24 feet high, but they believe Dreadnoughtus only weighed about 65 tonnes (about the weight of a dozen large elephants) and measured at 85 feet long.

This is interesting because Dreadnoughtus was first thought to have weighed 77 tonnes, measure 130 feet in length, and stand 65 feet tall. But, as some anticipated, its size was reduced because of how difficult it is to calculate accurate estimates of fragmentary remains. Paleontologists use different methods to calculate size and weight, so there’s plenty of speculation that goes into the final estimates.

Still, 45 percent of the total skeleton was recovered, which is more complete than any other titanosaur. For example, only 15 percent of Futalognkosaurus dukei, was found, which had previously been the most complete fossil found of its kind.

Other changes have been announced since the preliminary study as well. It was first thought that Dreadnoughtus lived between 95 and 100 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, but it’s now believed to have lived about 77 million years ago, a difference of nearly 20 million years.

Even though it’s not the world’s largest dinosaur, Lacovara believes it was just a young dinosaur that was still growing; the shoulder bones weren’t fused like that of an adult’s, and its bone-growing cells look like that of a youth, so there’s no telling how big it could have grown had it reached its full size.

One thing that wasn’t surprising to learn was that the dinosaur probably died during a flood, which is quite common for dinosaurs. Researchers speculate that the event might have been a natural levee flooding a river, but we know of a global flood that would have been more likely to have killed off one of these giants, known to have stood against the force of rivers. According to Job 40:23:

a raging river does not alarm it; it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.

I also find it interesting what scientists think they know about certain organisms from their fossils- habitat, diet and even their evolution. Unfortunately, the scientific conclusions keep changing, and I think that demonstrates the entirely speculative nature of trying to unravel the past. While it’s fun to speculate, none of the conclusions should be considered definitive or settled, because science is never settled. I was skeptical of the original findings- and was right to be, and I continue to question some of the final analysis. Without the ability to venture into the past and observe these massive beasts in their natural habitat and witness their death and fossilization, it’s impossible to know their real history- we’d have to be omniscient. However, we can have confidence that the Bible reveals the most reliable information about the past, and that we don’t have to compromise the history of our planet. And that’s because God- who created the heavens and the earth- is omniscient and has revealed enough about the past that we can have a reliable understanding of what happened long ago.

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