New titanosaur discovery exhibits state-of-the-art paleontology

Starting this weekend, visitors to New York's American Museum of Natural History can get close up view of what scientists believe may be the biggest creature to have ever walked the earth. The discovery represents huge gains for modern paleontology. Ivette Feliciano reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Scientists believe a species of dinosaur on public view for the first time may be the biggest creature to have ever walked the earth.

    Starting this weekend, visitors to New York's American Museum of Natural History can get close up view.

    The NewsHour's Ivette Feliciano reports.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    This 122-foot-long skeleton is called a titanosaur.

    When it roamed the earth 100 million years ago, it weighed as much as 10 elephants, or 70 tons, and its neck could have peeked inside a fifth floor window.

    This recently discovered species is so big, it stretches through two exhibit rooms at the Museum of Natural History.

    Paleontologist Mark Norell is the curator.

  • MARK NORELL, MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY:

    It gives us our first good, real picture about how we found them, about how big they were, about how tall they were

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    A rancher in Argentina's Patagonia desert discovered the first titanosaur fossils in 2012.

    Two years later, paleontologists excavated 223 more bones belonging to six dinosaurs there.

    Among the excavated bones was this thigh bone, measuring eight feet long.

  • MARK NORELL:

    For a long time we've known that animals may have approached this size, but they were largely just quite fragmentary remains, and we couldn't get a really good look at just how immense these creatures were.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    The real fossils are too heavy to mount, so Canadian researchers used 3-D scans to cast lightweight fiberglass replicas of 84 original bones to create the giant skeleton now on view.

    Norell says 3-D printers and other advances in technology help improve the study of these extinct animals.

  • MARK NORELL:

    The discoveries just keep continuing and continuing and continuing, with lots of new specimens becoming available. It's really been a great time to be a paleontologist.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    The species found in Argentina will get its formal scientific name in the next few months.

  • MARK NORELL:

    I think that for years to come international groups of scientists will study this specimen.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    For more, watch "Raising the Dinosaur Giant" on the PBS Series "Nature," premiering February 17th.

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