21 Dec 2023

The giant dinosaurs of Patagonia… and maybe Aotearoa?

From Our Changing World, 5:00 am on 21 December 2023
A girl holds a smartphone up to the sharp teeth of a dinosaur skeleton.

Visitor gets up close to Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa Photo: Neil Price / Te Papa


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This week on Our Changing World, RNZ podcast producer and occasional dinosaur correspondent William Ray visits Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa Dinosaurs of Patagonia, a special exhibition at Te Papa Museum, to discover the surprising link between the giant dinosaurs of Patagonia and prehistoric New Zealand.



An ancient giant of Patagonia

One hundred and one million years ago, an astonishingly large animal breathed its last breath on a muddy riverbank in what would eventually become Patagonia in Argentina.


We don’t know exactly how it died. Possibly it just got stuck in the mud, a potentially fatal prospect for an animal that weighed as much as eight African elephants.


Its 2.4-metre-long, 600-kilogram femur was eventually unearthed by an Argentinian farm worker, and later inspected by paleontologists from Argentina’s Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio. The femur was identified as belonging to a massive long-necked sauropod dinosaur dubbed Patagotitan mayorum, which ranks among the largest animals to ever live on land.


A huge sauropod skeleton with a long neck takes up most of the room, dwarfing people sitting beneath its neck. A T rex-esque skeleton is in the background; it is much smaller.

Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa Photo: Neil Price / Te Papa.

Our Changing World producer William Ray discovers the story of how these enormous animals evolved – and their surprising link to Aotearoa New Zealand.


Special thanks to Te Papa Museum and the Department of Conservation for the soundscape in this episode.


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