One hundred million years ago, a sauropod that stretched more than 120 feet and weighed some 70 tons existed—perhaps the largest creature to ever roam the Earth. Over the past few years, researchers have excavated fossils from six young-adult dinosaurs from a Patagonian quarry, and New Scientist puts stats for Patagotitan mayorum in perspective: The creature would have been the length of about seven elephants. The AP estimates it would have been as heavy as a space shuttle, with team member Diego Pol noting that placing Patagotitan next to a T. rex would be like putting "an elephant by a lion." Per the Atlantic, that means the plant-eating Patagotitan was double the size of the already-huge brachiosaurus and apatosaurus, and about 10% larger than the reigning dinosaur giant, a titanosaur known as Argentinosaurus.
As the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal details, this find sheds more light on how sauropods in the 12- to 20-ton range saw their mass triple, evolving into lognkosaurs, of which Patagotitan is a member. Charlotte Brassey, a Manchester Metropolitan University researcher not tied to the study, speculates that this animal from the Cretaceous period ballooned in size perhaps due to increasingly diverse and abundant plants that were like an "all-you-can-eat buffet for these dinosaurs," the AP notes. Brassey notes that the Patagotitan's skeleton, metabolism, or behavior (or all of these things) could have changed and spurred the growth spurt. "Maybe someone can find a bigger [dinosaur], but I feel like maybe this is the limit," study co-author Jose Carballido says. (This dinosaur devoured sharks.)