Homing in on the Longest Animal

By Monastersky, Richard | Science News, December 23, 1989 | Go to article overview

Homing in on the Longest Animal


Monastersky, Richard, Science News


Homing in on the longest animal

Paleontologists have started using a shotgun in the hunt for a gargantuan dinosaur dubbed Seismosaurus. The gun is part of an arsenal of sophisticated techniques scientists are now attempting to apply to paleontology.

For years, geophysicists have used remote sensing devices to locate petroleum reserves, mineral ores and other valuable deposits underground. More recently, remote sensing has helped uncover archaeological structures. But this is the first time paleontologists have used it in an attempt to locate fossils.

Seismosaurus, or "earth-shaker," is an unofficial name used to describe the huge, 140-million-year-old skeleton that David D. Gillette and his colleagues have been excavating from the desert of central New Mexico since 1985 (SN: 8/13/86, p. 103). In shape, the bones resemble those from the well-known diplodocid dinosaurs but are 10 percent to 80 percent larger. The dinosaur's dimensions indicate it once reached a length of at least 120 feet, and possibly more than 140 feet, making Seismosaurus the longest animal known in Earth's history, says Gillette, who works out of Salt Lake City as Utah's state paleontolist. Other paleontologists are excavating another huge Utah diplodocid, unofficially called Supersaurus, which may also have stretched beyond 120 feet in length (SN:4/29/89, p.

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