Published: May 20, 2019

Making Máximo the Titanosaur

Alert

Or, how to fit the world's largest dinosaur through the door.

On May 21, 2018, a very special delivery arrived at the Field: Máximo the Titanosaur. Our exhibitions staff and a team from Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF) carefully unloaded the cast of Patagotitan mayorum, a long-necked, plant-eating titanosaur that’s the biggest of the sauropod dinosaurs. Our Patagotitan cast had traveled many miles from Patagonia, Argentina, in multiple pieces that filled up two shipping containers.

Working bone by bone—with some sections weighing literally one ton—the team used two forklifts, five pallet jacks, ratchet straps, chains, and more to get the 122-foot titanosaur skeleton safely into our loading dock. A special crane lifted the longest and heaviest section of vertebrae through our front door.

Building a dinosaur

Our titanosaur is a cast, meaning it’s made from an extremely accurate mold of the fossil bones. No complete single Patagotitan skeleton has been discovered yet (specimens like SUE the T. rex, which is 90% complete, are very rare). Scientists identified and named the species Patagotitan mayorum from a group of more than 130 bones all found at the same site in Argentina.

Because the bones are from multiple individuals, and not just one animal, we consider Máximo to be the identity of the specific cast that lives here at the Field. (His “twin” cast, modeled from the same fossil bones, resides at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.)

The MEF and Field Museum team made speedy work of assembling Máximo, starting with the legs and vertebrae before moving onto the hips, skull, and ribs. Throughout the process, the team made paint touch-ups to the cast. Something that’s stood out to visitors since the moment Máximo arrived is his unique coloring: many of the dinosaurs and other fossils you’ll see at the museum are dark to light brown in color, but our titanosaur is a more of a rusty red. That’s because fossils take on the color of minerals in the earth around them; they can range from nearly black to gray, pink, and almost white. Paleontologists unearthed the Patagotitan mayorum fossils from red clay that was high in iron, which reacts with oxygen and turns to rust. Hence, Máximo’s reddish hue.

A hip bone is lowered by crane to a partially complete dinosaur skeleton. One man is operating the crane on the ground, and two or three other men are raised in a lift, waiting to move the hip bone into place. People watch from behind a black barrier surrounding the dinosaur skeleton.

The crew very carefully lowers a hip bone, or illium, into position. We brought Máximo to the Field as just one way to celebrate the Museum's 125th anniversary in 2018, and he's a permanent exhibit in Stanley Field Hall.

Getting to know Máximo

Patagotitan mayorum is the biggest dinosaur that’s been discovered to date, possibly just a hair larger than other super-huge members of the titanosaur group like Argentinosaurus. Our cast's name, Máximo, means “maximum” or “most” in English and honors Patagotitan’s home country of Argentina. 

Want to know more about this gentle giant? You can now chat with Máximo at fieldmuseum.org/máximo or text him at 70221. He’ll tell you more about how he came to be at the museum and life 101 million years ago.