Titanosaur: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur

As that guy from the A-Team put it, “I love it when a plan comes together”, or in this case, “An unrelated series of events that make it seems as though I’ve actually planned out this blog”. Not long after reviewing Margaret McNamara’s The Dinosaur Expert, whose pivotal scene takes place in “THE TITANOSAUR” exhibit hall at the AMNH, I took my boys to a storytime session at the local library. While perusing the shelves afterwards, I discovered an entire book dedicated to the story of the discovery of the aforementioned skeleton, aptly titled TITANOSAUR, written by expedition leaders Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol no less!

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A lovely illustration from the book’s inside cover.

Carbadillo & Pol recount how the chance discovery of a sheepherder led to the excavation of what would come to be known as Patagotitan, a member of the sauropod family known appropriately as titanosaurs. As the authors recount the tireless efforts of their team members in excavating, preparing, and reconstructing the giant dinosaurs fossils, the question of its overall size hangs tantalizingly in the air. Once enough of the skeleton is excavated, permitting proper measurements of several of the individual bones, the leaders excitedly reveal that the data suggests their dinosaur exceeds the size of the previous record-holder, another titanosaur named Argentinosaurus. (I feel I should note, however, one of Matt Wedel’s several posts at SV-POW! cautioning greater nuance in discussing “the largest dinosaur ever”.)

Numerous sidebars and inserts throughout the book provide readers with extra information, such explanations of dinosaur classification, the process of excavation, and other interesting supplemental facts.

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Lovely paintings by Florencia Gigeno illustrate the story, from the sheepherd’s initial discovery to the team’s work at the excavation site and the museum prep lab. I particularly like the double-page illustration of the skeleton in-situ; it reminds me of the site maps shared in some of the publications announcing Patagotitan’s discovery. For those who, like me, followed all the early reporting about this fossil find, this should spark a bit of recognition, which speaks well of Gigeno’s artwork.

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I included a toy titanosaur, the Safari Ltd. Malawisaurus, to give a sense of the book’s size. The dinosaur toy is a little over a foot long.

 

 

While Gigeno’s paintings form the bulk of the illustrations, with photographs confined mostly to the inserts, the book finishes with a grand double-page photograph of the finished skeletal mount. This image was taken when Sir David Attenborough visited during the filming of his documentary, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur (available on Netflix as Raising the Dinosaur Giant), and you can actually see Attenborough entering through the doors on the left, though he isn’t identified in the text. (I would think one would take any excuse to brag about having been involved with David Attenborough, but maybe that’s just me!)

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As it happens, the photograph is scaled just right on the page so that these 1:40 scale Safari Ltd. models compare nicely to it. Here we can see roughly how the smaller titanosaur Malawisaurus and largish Camarasaurus would’ve stacked up next to Patagotitan. (The newer Safari Ltd. Camarasaurus is about the same size as this one.)

Well written, with lovely illustrations, and a fascinating subject to boot, I highly recommend purchasing yourself a copy of TITANOSAUR: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur (for those of you who may have followed me for my reviewed of Dinosaurios Bebés, I should mention that the Hispanic authors of course also authored a Spanish language edition, if you happen to prefer it).

I have a real passion for the history of paleontology, as well as promoting greater awareness of the individuals who work in the field of paleontology (as I’m sure my readers will have noticed in my reviews of Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and Daring to Dig, just to name a few). I am very pleased to have discovered such an excellent book that provides insight into the story behind the fossils, and I am more than pleased to present TITANOSAUR with the Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!

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