SYDNEY (Reuters) – Scientists have confirmed the discovery of a new dinosaur species in Australia, one of the largest found in the world, more than a decade after cattle breeders first uncovered bones from the animal.
The herbivorous sauropod lived in the Cretaceous between 92 million and 96 million years ago, when Australia was linked to Antarctica, according to a research paper published on Monday.
Paleontologists estimated that the dinosaur reached a height of 1
It makes the new species the largest dinosaur ever found in Australia, placing it in the top five in the world and joining an elite group of titanosaurs previously only discovered in South America.
“Discoveries like this are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Queensland Museum curator and paleontologist Scott Hocknull.
Paleontologists have named the sauropod “Australotitan cooperensis”, which combines “southern titanium” with the name of a stream near where the first of the creature’s bones was found in 2006 on a cattle ranch in Eromanga, Queensland.
The confirmation of the new species marks a seventeen-year journey to first dig up and then compare the bones from “Cooper”, as the dinosaur is more informally known with other finds.
Dinosaurs are huge, heavy and fragile and are kept in museums all over the world, making scientific research difficult.
The team from the Eromanga Natural History Museum and Queensland Museum used new digital technology for the first time to 3D scan each bone for comparisons.
“To ensure that the Australotian was a different species, we needed to compare its bones with bones from other species from Queensland and globally,” Hocknull said. “This was a very long and careful task.”
Robyn Mackenzie, who mustered cattle with her husband Stuart on their property when they discovered the bones, founded the Eromanga Natural History Museum to house the find.
A number of further discoveries of dinosaur skeletons in the area along with a stone shelf believed to have been a sauropod path are still awaiting full scientific investigation.
“Palaeo tourism has been huge globally, so we expect a lot of international interest when our borders reopen,” said Mackenzie, now a field paleontologist.
Hocknull said even larger dinosaur specimens were waiting to be discovered as the herbivorous sauropods were generally preyed upon by huge teropods.
“We have found a few small teropod dinosaurs in Australia … but it would not have bothered Australotitan, which suggests that there is a very large predatory dinosaur out there somewhere. We just have not found it yet. ”
Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Clip by Jane Wardell
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