Comparing the Sizes of Dinosaurs in the Lost World
When dinosaurs inhabited the Earth over 66 million years ago, their sizes and species varied dramatically.
While geological evidence is far from complete, fossil evidence suggests that the largest dinosaurs were comparable to the length of a Boeing 737 or the weight of 12 elephants. Meanwhile, the smallest were similar to the size of a chicken or bird.
In this infographic from Giulia De Amicis we compare the sizes of dinosaurs to get a sense of their vast scale and diversity.
Sizes of Dinosaurs Compared to Modern Day Life
Towering as high as 39 meters, the Argentinosaurus or ‘Argentina lizard’ is currently thought to be the largest dinosaur ever discovered. It was a sauropod, a subgroup of dinosaurs with very long necks and long tails, four wide legs for support, and relatively smaller heads.
In 1987, its bones were unearthed in the Patagonia region of Argentina, a destination well-known for prehistoric fossils. For comparison’s sake, the length of the Argentinosaurus is as high as a 13-story building.
|Name||Length (Meters)||Length (Feet)|
|Argentinosaurus||39 m||128 ft|
|Blue Whale||30 m||98 ft|
|Brachiosaurus||26 m||85 ft|
|Diplodocus||26 m||85 ft|
|Barosaurus||24 m||79 ft|
|Spinosaurus||15 m||49 ft|
|Tyrannosaurus rex||12 m||30 ft|
|Iguanodon||10 m||33 ft|
|Baryonyx||10 m||33 ft|
|Triceratops||9 m||30 ft|
|African Elephant||7 m||23 ft|
|Human||1.8 m||6 ft|
|Epidextipteryx||44 cm||1.4 ft|
|Parvicursor||39 cm||1.3 ft|
Other sauropods were also massive, including the Brachiosaurus, or ‘arm lizard’—it was roughly the size of a blue whale.
Fossil evidence discovered in 1900 in the Colorado Valley showed that the Brachiosaurus lived in the late Jurassic Period, 140-155 million years ago. Similarly, the Tyrannosaurus rex (12 m) also lived in North America, but during the Late Cretaceous period some 80 million years later.
Among the smallest dinosaurs were the Parvicursor (literally ‘small runner’) and Epidextipteryx (literally ‘display feather’). Both were under 45 centimeters, similar to a modern mid-sized bird.
The Age of Giants
Not only were the dinosaurs sheerly colossal in size, but so too was their mass.
Consider how the Argentinosaurus was about the weight of a typical rocket at 75,000 kg, or twice the mass of a Boeing 737. And there were many heavy dinosaurs, such as the Diplodocus (meaning ‘double beam’) which weighed a hefty 13,000 kg.
Sizes of Dinosaurs In Question
How do we know these sizes and weights?
Scientists use discovered bones, impressions, and completed fossils to come up with ranges of estimates. The more complete a fossil and the more similar fossils exist, the more accurate the estimate that scientists can make.
But amid discoveries of the largest dinosaurs on earth, many paleontologists have questioned size claims. Due to incomplete fossil records, some estimates are based on as little as a handful of bone records. For instance, just 20% of the Brachiosaurus’ skeleton has been discovered.
At the same time, techniques such as 3-D scanning continue to be refined, and there are now many different techniques being used to estimate size. That said, one study has shown that even diverse sizing techniques typically arrive at similar results.
With access to virtual fossils, broad archeological datasets, as well as advancing techniques and new discoveries, the understanding of the sizes of dinosaurs continues to evolve.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
The Anthropocene: A New Epoch in the Earth’s History
We visualize Earth’s history through the geological timeline to reveal the planet’s many epochs, including the Anthropocene.
The Anthropocene: A New Epoch in the Earth’s History
Over the course of Earth’s history, there have been dramatic shifts in the landscape, climate, and biodiversity of the planet. And it is all archived underground.
Layers of the planet’s crust carry evidence of pivotal moments that changed the face of the Earth, such as the ice age and asteroid hits. And scientists have recently defined the next major epoch using this geological time scale—the Anthropocene.
In this infographic we dig deep into the Earth’s geological timeline to reveal the planet’s shift from one epoch to another, and the specific events that separate them.
Understanding the Geological Timeline
The Earth’s geological history is divided into many distinct units, from eons to ages. The time span of each varies, since they’re dependent on major events like new species introduction, as well as how they fit into their parent units.
|Geochronologic unit||Time span||Example|
|Eon||Several hundred million years to two billion years||Phanerozoic|
|Era||Tens to hundreds of millions of years||Cenozoic|
|Period||Millions of years to tens of millions of years||Quaternary|
|Epoch||Hundreds of thousands of years to tens of millions of years||Holocene|
|Age||Thousands of years to millions of years||Meghalayan|
Note: Subepochs (between epochs and ages) have also been ratified for use in 2022, but are not yet clearly defined.
If we were to cut a mountain in half, we could notice layers representing these changing spans of time, marked by differences in chemical composition and accumulated sediment.
Some boundaries are so distinct and so widespread in the geologic record that they are known as “golden spikes.” Golden spikes can be climatic, magnetic, biological, or isotopic (chemical).
Earth’s Geological Timeline Leading Up to the Anthropocene
The Earth has gone through many epochs leading up to the modern Anthropocene.
These include epochs like the Early Devonian, which saw the dawn of the first early shell organisms 400 million years ago, and the three Jurassic epochs, which saw dinosaurs become the dominant terrestrial vertebrates.
Over the last 11,700 years, we have been living in the Holocene epoch, a relatively stable period that enabled human civilization to flourish. But after millennia of human activity, this epoch is quickly making way for the Anthropocene.
|Epoch||Its start (MYA = Million Years Ago)|
|Anthropocene||70 Years Ago|
The Anthropocene is distinguished by a myriad of imprints on the Earth including the proliferation of plastic particles and a noticeable increase in carbon dioxide levels in sediments.
A New Chapter in Earth’s History
The clearest identified marker of this geological time shift, and the chosen golden spike for the Anthropocene, is radioactive plutonium from nuclear testing in the 1950s.
The best example has been found in the sediment of Crawford Lake in Ontario, Canada. The lake has two distinct layers of water that never intermix, causing falling sediments to settle in distinct layers at its bed over time.
While the International Commission on Stratigraphy announced the naming of the new epoch in July 2023, Crawford Lake is still in the process of getting approved as the site that marks the new epoch. If selected, our planet will officially enter the Crawfordian Age of the Anthropocene.
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