Palaeontologists and museum curators try to keep their objects safe, but sometimes there are forces outside of their control

Periodically palaeontologists will announce a new candidate for the largest dinosaur to have ever walked the Earth with the finding of a new specimen or species. There are multiple credible candidates for this title on display in various museums though sadly each is inevitably represented by less than complete remains. Most recently a new giant from Argentina has been on show in the US that might top the lot, but even this may not have beaten a near mythical animal:a giant that was known from a single and incomplete top part of a vertebra from the middle of the spine.

‘Was’ is critical here because the specimen is no longer in existence. It was extremely fragile and at some point shortly after its discovery it apparently crumbled and fell apart. Such a fate is not uncommon for some kinds of fossils where exposure to the air or being freed from the supporting matrix can lead to specimens disintegrating but this was before the development of glues that could help consolidate and preserve fragile specimens, and it is also likely that no one immediately realised this was a risk.

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Read More When a dinosaur fossil is gone it’s gone forever

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