Forgotten Giants species #5: Paralititan stromeri
Meaning of name: Stromer's tidal giant
Location: Bahariya oasis, Egypt.
Length: ~90+ ft.
Mass: ~70 tons
Time: Late Cretaceous, Cenomanian epoch
, the largest dinosaur so far known from the Middle East, has been known for over a decade without a single hi-fi scientific restoration being done. Here is the first one. Paralititan
was discovered in Bahariya, the same fossil site that yielded the first specimens of Carcharodontosaurus
many decades ago. It's now known to be a common pattern that wherever you find giant herbivores, giant carnivores are also present. The species name honors Dr. Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach, who was the first to explore and excavate the Bahariya oasis back in the 1910s. Paralititan
has often been proposed as a candidate for "biggest dinosaur" and usually gets compared to Argentinosaurus [link]
, though the type (and only) specimen of Paralititan
is actually a good bit smaller than Argentinosaurus (and certainly not in the same class as Puertasaurus [link]
). Nevertheless it's at least twice the mass of the Berlin Giraffatitan
HMN SII. And Paralititan
's maximum size may actually be a good bit larger than the type specimen, since there is no coracoid attached to its right scapula (whose front end is preserved unlike the left one), indicating that the coracoids on the type specimen had not yet fused to the scapulae when it died, and therefore this was not an adult animal. Paralititan
seems to be most closely related to Argyrosaurus [link]
, based on the few remains known. Both had very wide, flattened "snowboard" humeri and appear to have been very robust animals. They appear to fall in more derived than lognkosaurs but more basal than most other lithostrotians (i.e. saltasaurs, nemegtosaurs, etc.)Paralititan
was discovered in sediments that indicate a mangrove area near the sea; shark teeth and petrified mangrove roots are common in the site. This adds an interesting twist to the prevailing theory of sauropods being dry-land animals. Such a massive animal could not have walked in ordinary swamps without sinking in, but the sand in a seaside mangrove would be able to support it, as the sand under its feet became packed and the water displaced from it with every step. On the other hand it may be possible that Paralititan
lived nowhere near the mangroves, but its remains were washed out there by a flooding river; the skeleton of the type specimen may have been scavenged and broken up before then, as so little of it is left.
Aside from the type specimen discovered in 2001, there may have been other Paralititan
remains that were never properly identified. Stromer reported in 1932 that he found a very large anterior dorsal vertebra, labeled 1912VIII64, which is illustrated in his paper as a centrum (of the wide, squat type common in intermediate and derived titanosaurs) along with part of the neural arch, and a tight trapezoidal neural canal. The overall morphology is similar to Epachthosaurus
, and some lognkosaurians. This vertebra may in fact belong to Paralititan
, or simply a very large individual of Aegyptosaurus
, though we will never know, as it was destroyed (along with the rest of Stromer's collection) in the allied bombing raids in World War II.
Smith, J.B.; Lamanna, M.C.; Lacovara, K.J.; Dodson, P.; Smith, J.R.; Poole, J.C.; Giegengack, R.; and Attia, Y. (2001). "A Giant sauropod dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous mangrove deposit in Egypt". Science
292 (5522): 1704–1706.
Stromer, E. (1932a). Ergebnisse der Forschungsreisen Prof. E. Stromers in den Wüsten Ägyptens. II. Wirbeltierreste der Baharîje-Stufe (unterstes Cenoman). 11. Sauropoda. Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Abteilung,
Neue Folge, 10: 1-21.