PICS | Scientists confirm discovery of ‘Cooper’, the largest dinosaur found in Australia

Plant-eating sauropod lived between 92 million and 96 million years ago

09 June 2021 - 08:08 By Reuters
A field research team with a 3D reconstruction of the humerus bone and other dinosaur bones from a new species of dinosaur discovered in Queensland and recognised as the largest ever found in Australia.
A field research team with a 3D reconstruction of the humerus bone and other dinosaur bones from a new species of dinosaur discovered in Queensland and recognised as the largest ever found in Australia.
Image: Eromanga Natural History Museum/Handout via 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 farmers first uncovered bones of the animal.

The plant-eating sauropod lived in the Cretaceous period between 92 million and 96 million years ago when Australia was attached to Antarctica, according to a research paper published on Monday.

Paleontologists estimated the dinosaur reached a height of 5m to 6.5m at the hip and 25m to 30m in length, making it as long as a basketball court and as tall as a two storey building.

That makes the new species the largest dinosaur ever found in Australia and puts it in the top five in the world, 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.

Dr Scott Hocknull with a 3D reconstruction and the humerus bone of 'Cooper'.
Dr Scott Hocknull with a 3D reconstruction and the humerus bone of 'Cooper'.
Image: Eromanga Natural History Museum/Handout via Reuters

Paleontologists have named the sauropod “Australotitan cooperensis”, combining “southern titan” with the name of a creek near where the first of the creature’s bones were found in 2006 on a cattle farming property in Eromanga in Queensland state.

The confirmation of the new species marks a 17-year journey to first unearth and then compare the bones of “Cooper”, as the dinosaur is informally known, to other finds.

Dinosaur bones are enormous, heavy and fragile and are kept in museums about the world, making scientific study difficult.

The team from the Eromanga Natural History Museum and the Queensland Museum used new digital technology for the first time to 3D scan each bone for comparisons.

“To make sure Australotitan was a different species, we needed to compare its bones to the bones of other species from Queensland and globally,” Hocknull said.

“This was a very long and painstaking task.”

Dr Scott Hocknull and Robyn Mackenzie with a 3D reconstruction and the humerus bone of the new species of dinosaur discovered in Australia.
Dr Scott Hocknull and Robyn Mackenzie with a 3D reconstruction and the humerus bone of the new species of dinosaur discovered in Australia.
Image: Eromanga Natural History Museum/Handout via Reuters

Robyn Mackenzie, who was herding cattle with her husband Stuart on their property when they discovered the bones, founded the Eromanga Natural History Museum to house the find.

Further discoveries of dinosaur skeletons in the area, along with a rock shelf believed to have been a sauropod pathway, are awaiting full scientific study.

“Palaeo tourism has been huge globally so we are expecting a lot of international interest when our borders reopen,” said Mackenzie, now a field paleontologist.

Hocknull said even larger dinosaur specimens are waiting to be discovered, given the plant-eating sauropods were generally preyed on by huge theropods.

“We’ve found a few small theropod dinosaurs in Australia but it wouldn’t have bothered Australotitan, which suggests there is a very large predatory dinosaur somewhere. We just haven’t found it yet.” 

Reuters


subscribe