The Manchester team worked with scientists in Argentina to laser scan a 40 metre-long skeleton of the vast Cretaceous Agentinosaurus dinosaur.
Then using an advanced computer modeling technique involving the equivalent of 30,000 desktop computers they recreated its walking and running movements.
The digital version disproves previous suggestions that the animal was inflated in size and could not have walked, according to the study published this afternoon.
Dr Phil Manning, from Manchester who contributed to the paper, said: “It is frustrating there was so little of the original dinosaur fossilized, making any reconstruction difficult. The digitization of such vast dinosaur skeletons using laser scanners brings Walking with Dinosaurs to life…this is science not just animation.”
The dinosaur weighed 80 tonnes and the simulation shows that it would have reached just over 2 m/s – about 5 mph.
Lead researcher on the project Dr Bill Sellers, said: “If you want to work out how dinosaurs walked, the best approach is computer simulation. This is the only way of bringing together all the different strands of information we have on this dinosaur, so we can reconstruct how it once moved.”
Dr Lee Margetts, who also worked on the project, said: “The new study clearly demonstrates the dinosaur was more than capable of strolling across the Cretaceous planes of what is now Patagonia, South America.”
The University of Manchester team now plans to use the method to recreate the steps of other dinosaurs including Triceratops, Brachiosaurus and T. rex.
The full reports can be found at www.ploscollections.org/sauropodgigantism.