The Biggest Dinosaur to Ever Walk the Earth Just Wants to Text You

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Máximo is a titanosaur called Patagotitan mayorum, the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Credit: The Field Museum

The biggest dinosaur ever discovered just wishes you'd drop him a line.

In a new program launched by Chicago's Field Museum, the cast skeleton of the titanosaur dubbed Máximo will text you back answers to questions about the dinosaur's life in prehistoric Patagonia — or anything else you'd like to gab about. Want to know Máximo's favorite color? Ask away! Want Máximo to know how handsome he looks in that selfie you took with him? The gentle giant will gently thank you. 

The "Message Máximo" project aims to get dino fans personally involved with fun facts about the museum's largest resident, said Andrea Ledesma, project manager for Message Máximo. "We wanted a way for visitors to interact with Máximo that was fun and surprising, but still engaging with the actual science," Ledesma told Live Science.

You can reach Máximo via text at 70221 or through online chat at the dino's web page. Behind the scenes, a chatbot set up to answer a wide range of questions responds to queries, Ledesma said. Programmers engineered Máximo's chatbot to field expected questions like "Where are you from?" and "Why is your neck so long?" as well as a few out-of-left-field queries that no one's yet asked, like "Did you see 'Jurassic Park'?" (Sorry, kids, did I say chatbot? I meant the dinosaur is totally talking to you.)

Máximo can also tell a knock-knock joke, which I won't spoil for you.

So far, the response to Máximo's chatty new persona has been positive, Ledesma said, with over 500 conversations logged on the May 8 public launch. "Overall, from the conversations, the reception to the project has been pretty positive."

Máximo is a cast (meaning, not the actual bones) created in the likes of a Patagotitan mayoruma type of sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur, in the group titanosauria. The largest dinosaur ever found, this creature's bones stretch 122 feet (37 meters) across the Field Museum's large main floor, Stanley Field Hall. At 28 feet (8.5 m) tall, Máximo's head peaks over the walkway encircling the main hall. When alive, Máximo would have weighed 70 tons, or as much as 10 African elephants.

Máximo lived 101 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period (facts I know from asking Máximo himself). In my own brief chat with the dinosaur, he also told me that he is an herbivore. "If you know of any place that makes an excellent fern salad, fern taco, fern pizza … please let me know."

Máximo passed my city-loyalty test, too. "I am having a wonderful time in Chicago," he said. "I love the many tall glass trees. Or skyscrapers, I think you say."

Máximo entered the Field Museum last summer, taking the former place of Sue the T. rex, who now enjoys a view of the Cretaceous sky upstairs.