(Elal titan - After the god of the Tehuelche people).
Named By: Philip D. Mannion & Alejandro Otero - 2012.
Classification: Chordata, Reptilia, Dinosauria, Saurischia, Sauropodomorpha, Sauropoda, Titanosauria, Lithostrotia.
Species: E. lilloi (type).
Size: Uncertain but possibly as much as 18 meters long (refer to main text).
Known locations: Argentina, Chubut Province - Bajo Barreal Formation.
Time period: Cenomaian/Turonian of the Cretaceous.
Fossil representation: Partial post cranial skeleton.
with many dinosaurs, the remains of Elaltitan
described as belonging to another genus. Originally assigned by
Bonarparte and Gasparini to Antarctosaurus
in 1979, the remains
were later described as Argyrosaurus
by Jaime Powell. Later study of
the remains by Philip Mannion and Alejandro Otero led to several key
differences being noted, particularly the neural arches of the
vertebrae. This led to the conclusion that the remains were those of
a very distinct genus of titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur. This led to
the creation of Elaltitan, a combination of the
name of the god for a
local people combined with the ancient Greek titan, from a race of
giants that once ruled the world before they were overthrown by the
Olympian gods. In fact the term ‘titan’ has been used as the
basis for a lot of sauropod dinosaur remains because of their large
physical sizes. The species name E. lilloi is
in recognition of the
work of Miguel Lillo.
Elaltitan is yet another sauropod dinosaur known from the Cretaceous era deposits of South America. During the Cretaceous, sauropods, particularly titanosaurian ones, were still roaming across the globe, though in most places it seems that they were in far fewer numbers to what they had been back at the end of the Jurassic when the number of known remains are most numerous. South America however seems to have been a refuge for these giant dinosaurs that not only allowed them to hang on but also to thrive with such truly gigantic forms such as Argentinosaurus. This may have been down to South Americas increasing isolation from the rest of the world as the continents continued to drift apart, something that would limit the influx of new creatures into South America, but would also stop sauropods expanding back out.
Like with most other sauropods, the best defence that Elaltitan would have had against predators would have been its large size, although it is still unknown if Elaltitan had bony armour similar to some other titanosaurs such as Saltasaurus. Because the remains of Elaltitan are incomplete it is hard to be certain as to exactly how big it was. However, although Elaltitan is seen as different from Antarctosaurus, the femur of Elaltitan seems to have been roughly the same size as the femur of Antarctosaurus. If the rest of the missing skeleton of Elaltitan was scaled the same as Antarctosaurus, then its plausible that Elaltitan may have been of similar overall size, roughly some eighteen metres long. It should be remembered however that big animals will always be at risk from big predators, and Elaltitan, particularly smaller juveniles, may have been at risk of attack from large theropod dinosaurs such as Giganotosaurus and Mapusaurus.
- A reappraisal of the Late Cretaceous Argentinean sauropod dinosaur Argyrosaurus superbus, with a description of a new titanosaur genus [here]