How do you build the world's biggest dinosaur?

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1. Giant human or fossil giant?

For hundreds of years Europeans have been digging up - and been fascinated by - wondrous bones. Native Americans and Ancient Greeks created myths and legends about them. While the first recorded dinosaur bone, found in 1676, was thought to be from a giant human.

Almost 200 years later this first bone, from a Megalosaurus, was identified as belonging to a dinosaur. The discovery triggered a fascination for uncovering secrets of long extinct species trapped in the earth for over 66 million years. As knowledge increased with new discoveries and scientific techniques, teams of dinosaur hunters, palaeontologists and model makers endeavoured to reconstruct some of the planet’s most spectacular inhabitants.

One group of dinosaurs has captured our imagination more than any other. The giant sauropods were vast, long-necked plant eaters, the biggest of which are titanosaurs. A bone from one, stumbled upon by a shepherd on a farm in Patagonia in 2013, has proved to be the largest yet found – a 2.4m thigh bone weighing over half a metric ton. Its discovery led to a two-year project, taking 40,000 man-hours, to bring to life probably the largest animal ever to walk the planet.

2. Discoveries over time change shape

Scrub back and forth below to compare early and current interpretations of what Megalosaurus looked like.

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You’ll see how easy it is to get it wrong. And how a rigorous forensic approach is needed to reconstruct an animal that no one has ever seen from a handful of bones.

3. Super sauropod dinosaur discoveries

Sauropod bones have been found on every continent on Earth. Click around the map to discover some significant fossil finds that have helped scientists to reconstruct them.

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The sauropods were a very successful group of dinosaurs that dominated the earth for over 135 million years. Their gigantism has taxed evolutionary biologists ever since the first fossil was found. The giant titanosaurs have only been found in South America and Asia.

4. How many people does it take to build a dino?

Finding a bone is just the first step. A challenging process of retrieval, cleaning, analysis and reconstruction follows. But how do they do this, and who does it involve?

Experts from Patagonia's Egidio Feruglio Museum confirm the farmworker's discovery is part of a dinosaur and take on the task of investigating the exciting find. This first bone turns out to to be the record breaking titanosaur thigh bone.

A whole team of fossil hunting scientists start on the painstaking extraction of the fossil bones and soon turn the site into a vast quarry. It's a harsh environment for both the diggers and the freshly exposed fossil bones.

Despite being in the ground for over 100 million years and weighing over half a metric ton the bones are surprisingly fragile. They are carefully encased in a field jacket made from toilet paper and plaster of Paris.

The protected bones are transported from the remote location, three hours from the nearest town, via a specially built road.

This CGI image reveals where the record breaking 223 fossils, from seven individuals in different layers of rock were retrieved from. It's the most titanosaurs found in one place and one of the biggest dinosaur finds in the last 100 years.

The bones were preserved in extraordinary detail, critical for the forensic examination that follows in the lab to identify what dinosaur it is.

The world’s biggest dinosaur factory creates 3D scans of the fossil bones from which robots carve polystyrene copies. Then fibreglass moulds are made for the re-construction.

The team consulted comparative anatomist, Professor John Hutchinson, to interpret the similarities between modern animals and the titanosaur’s bone structure to determine how it moved.

With no dinosaur head discovered at the La Flecha dig, the team have to make one, referencing three titanosaur skulls found elsewhere to create a skull that most suits the single tooth found at the site.

It takes two weeks working around the clock to fit all the fibreglass copies of the bones together in the massive warehouse. It's taken 40 people to complete the task from dig to construction.

5. Titanic fossil treasure trove

World's biggest dinosaur infographic

Reconstructing the titanosaur led to some extraordinary revelations.

Giant titanosaur finds are rare. The record-breaking discovery at La Flecha Farm is exciting because finding 223 bones enabled the team to construct a replica skeleton referencing 65-70% bones of a complete animal, compared with the dozen bones used to reconstruct Argentinosaurus.

6. How to build a dinosaur in 60 seconds

All the pieces, analysis and science come together to reveal one mighty big dinosaur.

7. How do you bring a dinosaur to life?

Using the latest forensic technology and comparisons to modern animals, scientists have reconstructed an impressive dinosaur. But how much can we be sure about?

Movement

Can a modern day dragon provide insight into how a sauropod might move?

Yes

The komodo dragon reveals how

A swinging tail helped movement.

Like Komodo dragons, titanosaurs had a huge muscle connecting the femur to its tail bones, enabling the tail to help propel the mighty dinosaur forward.

Colour

Colourful artists impressions can be seen in hundreds of books and museum exhibits, but are these the true colours of dinosaurs?

Possibly.

It has been unknown for years.

But recent feathery finds have changed this.

No proof exists that sauropods had feathers, so their colours are unknown, but fossil feathers from other dinosaurs found so far have been red, black and white.

Vocalisation

A whole array of calls and sounds have been attributed to dinosaurs in films, but could they really make them?

Yes

Almost certainly

They had voice boxes like modern animals.

It's not known exactly what sounds any dinosaur made, but scientists can reasonably guess they ranged from shrill squeaks to resonating grunts and groans.

Posture

How did the sauropods support their enormous weight without their bones shattering? Does a modern day animal have the answer?

Yes

Elephants have a solution

Fatty pad legs

Like elephants, the titanosaur's limbs were column-like, and behind its toes were giant fatty pads that acted like cushioning shock absorbers.