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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 12:47 GMT
Giant found in dinosaur graveyard

Sauropods Sauropods were massive creatures

An Argentine villager has dug up the bones of what may be the largest dinosaur species yet uncovered.

Local palaeontologists said the dinosaur was a herbivore measuring up to 51 metres (167 ft) long - beating its nearest rival, the 100-tonne Argentinosaurus huinculensis, by a good eight metres (26 ft).

In Patagonia, walking among the rocks is enough to discover fossils
Carlos Munoz, palaeontologist
It last walked on Earth during the Cretaceous period, 105 million years ago.

It was found in the southern Patagonian region in a series of canyons called La Buitrera, or the Vulture Cage - after the winged scavengers that dominate the region.

The director of the Florentino Ameghino Museum, Carlos Munoz, said two cervical vertebrae, measuring 1.2 m high, and a 2 m-long femur (leg bone), had been unearthed.

"We're ecstatic with this spectacular find. In Patagonia, walking among the rocks is enough to discover fossils," he told Reuters news agency.

Still searching

The as-yet unnamed and unclassified giant was probably like other sauropods with a small head on top of a long neck, and a long tail.

Mr Munoz said a team of palaeontologists was at work in the region, and any further bones recovered would be taken to the museum by the end of the month.

"We are going to be working until 31 January and then we will take everything to the museum to remove the sediment, study it and later mount a presentation."

The cavernous region has long had a reputation as a dinosaur graveyard.

Not only were the remains of the Argentinosaurus uncovered near the latest find, last April palaeontologists recovered the bones of a carnivorous monster thought to be larger than Giganotosaurus, the biggest meat-eater on record.

Giganotosaurus, also discovered in Patagonia, had a similar build to Tyrannosaurus rex and roamed South America for millions of years.

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