A newly discovered dinosaur has been named Australia’s largest species. Australotitan is 5-6.5 metres tall at the hip and 25-30 metres long, and estimated to weigh between 23,000 and 74,000kg.
Australotitan cooperensis is a sauropod, a four-legged herbivore with a long tail and neck, like the well-known Diplodocus. More precisely, it belongs to the group of sauropods called titanosaurs, which contain the largest-known land animals ever to walk the Earth. The new dinosaur, which lived 92-96 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, is believed to be within the 10-15 largest dinosaurs worldwide.
Its name means ‘Southern Titan from the Cooper’, named after Cooper Creek, Eromanga Basin, where the fossil was unearthed in 2007. Following its discovery, researchers had to study the fossil closely to tell whether it was a new species.
“Australotitan adds to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland, and just as importantly showcases a totally new area for dinosaur discovery in Australia,” said Dr Scott Hocknull, Senior Curator at Queensland Museum. “To make sure Australotitan was a different species, we needed to compare its bones to the bones of other species from Queensland and globally. This was a very long and painstaking task.”
This can be incredibly difficult to do, since dinosaur bones are not only enormous and heavy, but incredibly fragile. So, the researchers created 3D digital scans of each bone. “The 3-D scans we created allowed me to carry around thousands of kilos dinosaur bones in a 7kg laptop,” said Hocknull. “Better yet, we can now share these scans and knowledge online with the world.”
Compared to its closest relatives, Wintonotitan, Diamantinasaurus and Savannasaurus, researchers found that Australotitan was the largest of the family. “We compared the three species found to the north, near Winton, to our new Eromanga giant and it looks like Australia’s largest dinosaurs were all part of one big happy family,” said Hocknull.
Palaeontologists, geologists and volunteers from Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum have worked together in the area for 17 years. In this time, they have found a large variety of fossils, many of which are still awaiting scientific study.
“Over the last 17 years, numerous dinosaur skeletons have been found, including one with an almost complete tail. The discovery of a rock shelf almost 100 metres long represents a sauropod pathway, where the dinosaurs walked along trampling mud and bones into the soft ground,” Hocknull said.
“Discoveries like this are just the tip of the iceberg. Our ultimate goal is to find the evidence that tells the changing story of Queensland, hundreds of millions of years in the making. A grand story all scientists, museums and tourists can get behind.”
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