Patagonia, the Mesozoic era’s prehistoric land, was home to many different species of dinosaurs and other animals. The dinosaur fossils unearthed in this region revealed so much more than what we had originally thought, and they’re all displayed in museums for people to enjoy! It makes me wonder: with the recent discoveries from Patagonia, what dinosaurs actually lived in Patagonia?
Argentina and the Patagonian region was home to some of the largest dinosaurs on earth, the titanosaur sauropods like Argentinosaurus and Dreadnoughtus according to Wikipedia. Additionally, carnivorous theropods like Giganotosaurus and Carnotaurus lived there. The duck-billed hadrosaur Secernosaurus and the raptor-like dromaeosaurid Buitreraptor lived there as well.
Modern-day Patagonia is typically a cool and dry climate. The east coast is warmer than the west, especially in summer, as a branch of the southern equatorial current reaches its shores, whereas a cold current washes the west coast. However, winters are colder on the inland plateaus east of the slopes and further down the coast on the southeast end of the Patagonian region.
Most of the southern part of Argentina is covered by the semiarid scrub plateau. The Colorado River borders it to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the north, and the Strait of Magellan to the east.
During the Mesozoic Era, the climate was different. In the Triassic and Jurassic, it was likely much hotter with landscapes that were much more arid. Although conifers grew and there were lakes and rivers, it was desert-like. In the late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the climate became much more sub-tropical and even tropical.
Although there continued to be mountainous landscapes, the vegetation of conifer trees and cycads covered much of the land.
The arid dryness and desertification of the Patagonian landscape helped with the fossilization of many of the dinosaur skeletons that have been found.
Let’s take a deeper look at what kind of dinosaurs lived in this region!
The Titanosaur Fossils Found in Patagonia
The titanosaur fossils found in Patagonia include the gigantic Argentinosaurus find of the 1980s. The excavation led to a string of other significant discoveries of titanosaur fossils and nesting sites.
Paleontologists also found fossils of the following titanosaurs in Patagonia:
- Amargasaurus cazui (33 feet)
- Ninjatitan zapatai (65 feet)
- Dreadnoughtus schrani (85 feet)
- Argentinosaurus huinculensis (130 feet)
- Patagotitan mayorum (121 feet)
Interestingly, these fossils belonged to juveniles. The domineering adults could have been much bigger.
Titanosaurs were especially large sauropods, and Argentinian breeds were among the biggest terrestrial creatures of all time. Sauropods had long necks, massive tails, and pillar-like feet for stability. (Source)
Argentina was home to some of the world’s largest dinosaurs, and they mostly roamed in prehistoric Patagonia. Over 95 million years ago, the region was a large lagoon, diversified by forests and plains. Patagonia produced an environment ripe for titanosaurian dominance. (Source)
Paleontologists dug up titanosaur fossils that are about 140 years old. They are the oldest sauropod fossils ever discovered. Ninjatitan zapatai was preserved in Patagonia until scientists excavated it recently.
One of the most popular Patagonian titanosaur findings is the Patagotitan mayorum. In-depth studies revealed that Patagotitan mayorum was a sister species to the epic Argentinosaurus.
Some scientists excavated over 150 bones from prehistoric titanosaurs in a Patagonian ranch. The 2017 excavations led to the discovery of six new titanosaurian species.
Unlike other sauropods, Patagonian titanosaurs are exceedingly bigger, and they could have been the all-time biggest land creatures.
These herbivores managed to grow so big by thriving on the first flowering plants on earth. Moreover, they grew bigger to fend off predators with sheer size. They grew bigger with better nutrition, and they enriched the niche for local predators.
Patagotitan co-existed with other gigantic sauropods in the region. Most titanosaurs had similar features. Paleontologists had to use distinct vertebrae features when distinguishing genus and species.
So, Patagonia has produced the oldest sauropod fossils in prehistory, and it’s also home to the largest ever discovered dinosaur fossils.
YouTube Video About The Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
Key Groups of Dinosaurs Found in Argentina
The key groups of dinosaurs found in Argentina include:
The discovery of a 30-foot Megalossaurus fossil affirms that Argentine theropods also achieved a level of gigantism. Something about the region made it a suitable niche for gigantism.
Flowering plants nourished the titanosaurs, and food became abundant for the local predators.
We can tell by comparing the Ninjatitan zapatai, which predates Patagotitan. It was large (65 feet,) but other sauropods overtook it as flowering plants catalyzed gradual gigantism.
Megalosaurus lived 150 million years ago, and it stood 10 feet tall. This huge predator competed directly with argentine T. rexes, which reached iconic sizes.
Argentina’s Patagonia produced the largest ever terrestrial carnivore. One T. rex jaw measured a whooping five feet.
Age-old cat and mouse games have existed between Patagonian theropods and sauropods. The sauropods of Patagonia were over 120 feet long and weighed more than 100 metric tons. They were colossal beasts that could challenge apex predators.
Argentine long-neck herbivores were icon titanosaurs like no other sauropods. Argentinosaurus was thought to be the biggest ever dinosaur until its sister species emerged.
Though Argentinosaurus arguably is shorter than Patagotitan, it averages 30 metric tons heavier than Patagotitan.
Titanosaurus species had ferocious defenses. Their sheer size was fatal enough, but some developed specialized defenses.
For example, Bajadasurus pronuspinax fought off predators with a row of sharp spines extending from its vertebrae. They had the same protective mechanism that porcupines employ.
When the bounty is generous, the hunters get all the more dangerous. Patagonian carnivorous dinosaurs were terrifying killing machines. They grew larger than other individuals of their species in other niches. (Source)
For example, Giganotosaurus carolinii was the largest carnivorous dinosaur in all history. It could tower over dominant T. rexes and overpower the alpha males.
This Argentine giant had a similar stance and killing mechanisms of the T. rex. However, it averaged 44.3 feet in length, and dominant individuals could have grown much longer. (Source)
Carlotaurus sastrei also wreaked havoc in Jurassic Patagonia. This gigantic predator stretched to a length of 33 feet. Its species was part of the Abelisauridae genus. Carlotaurus sastrei could gore titanosaurs with the terrible horns on it had on its massive head.
Piatnitzkysaurus floresi was much smaller but deadly at hunting. It could team up in packs and isolate young or sickly titanosaurs. They were 16.8 feet long and were extremely fast-paced.
These species were especially lethal to the early titanosaurs like Ninjatitan.
Museums that Exhibit Patagonian Dinosaur Skeletons – Where Can I see Argentinosaurus?
The horned Carnotataurus is currently preserved in the Bernadino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Argentine Museum.
One of the most famous dinosaur fossils is the oldest titanosaur ever unearthed. It roamed in prehistoric Patagonia, but it’s preserved in a museum outside of modern Argentina.
Some of the most famous Patagonian dinosaur fossils discovered ended up in the United States. Americans had adequate skills and equipment to preserve and study the fossils.
For example, the American Museum of Natural History added to its fossils catalog early in 2016. It started displaying the preserved fossil of research on the fossils alluded to a new species: Patagotitan mayorum. (Source)
Other museums and sites where you can see fossils from Patagonia include:
- Carlos Gradin Museum of Archaeology
- Jaramillo Petrified Forest
- Punta Loma Reserve
- The Cave Monster
- Argentine Paleontological Museum
- The Egidio Feruglio Paleontologic Museum
- EL Chocon’s Museum
- Villa El Chocon
Where Can I See Argentinosaurus?
You can see Argentinosaurus in the Argentine Carmen Funes Municipal Museum.
The museum had the only specimen of the longest terrestrial dinosaur in history. It’s a skeletal reconstruction with actual bones, casting, and holotype display to make up for the incomplete fossil.
Dinosaurs may no longer roam the lands, but their fossils have been preserved and displayed at museums. The dinosaur fossils unearthed in this region revealed so much more than what we had originally thought, and they’re all displayed in museums for people to enjoy!
I can’t help but think about how many more giant dinosaurs are still to be found in this Patagonian region of Argentina. It’s amazing to think that there were full ecosystems of dinosaurs living here. Let’s see what the future discoveries in Patagonia give us.