A digital reconstruction of the world’s largest known land animal, the Cretaceous dinosaur Argentinosaurus, has allowed it to take its first steps -- albeit virtually -- in over 94 million years.
The recreation, outlined in PLoS ONE, is the most anatomically detailed walking simulation so far for a dinosaur, according to the researchers. The study also provides the first ever virtual trackway for Argentinosaurus.
The skeleton used in the study shows that the plant-eating dinosaur measured at least 131 feet long. The reconstruction reveals that it lumbered along at around 5 miles per hour.
“The simulation shows a slow walking gait, which is to be expected, given that the animal weighs 80 tonnes,” lead researcher Bill Sellers from the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, told Discovery News. “What is interesting is how well the simulated footfall pattern matches up with typical sauropod trackways.”
For the study, Sellers and his colleagues laser scanned the huge dinosaur’s skeleton. They then used an advanced computer modeling system (Sellers has his own software called Gaitsym) that involves the equivalent of 30,000 desktop computers. It virtually recreated the dinosaur, including the sauropod’s movements.
The discovery that Argentinosaurus could walk counters prior speculation that the animal could not have done so, based on previous estimations of its size.
This latest research concludes not only that Argentinosaurus could walk, but that it was also at the top of its food chain.
“Once you hit 80 tonnes, you don’t have to worry about being eaten by predators,” Sellers explained. “We don’t know whether this animal used its long neck to graze over wide areas of low-laying vegetation or for reaching the tops of trees, but from its locomotion we know that it was a slow, steady mover.”