Three new dinosaurs discovered in Australia

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Scientists in Queensland, Australia have discovered three new species of dinosaur in the mid-Cretaceous Winton Formation. The find has been published in the 2009 online journal PLoS ONE by Queensland Museum palaeontologist, Scott Hocknull et al.

Winton, Queensland, Australia
Image: Fikri and Roke.

Skeletal remains of two giant (titanosauriform) herbivorous sauropods along with one lightweight carnivorous theropod were found.

Diamantinasaurus matildae (meaning "Matilda's Diamantina River Lizard") derives its name from the Diamantina River which meanders through Queensland, Australia, and the Greek word sauros, which means lizard. The name matildae honours a national song of Australia, "Waltzing Matilda" penned by poet and writer A.B. "Banjo" Patterson whilst visiting near the town of Winton. Diamantinasaurus was a very large and heavy lithostrotian sauropod which has been compared to a gigantic modern-day hippopotamus.

The discoverers' impression of Diamantinasaurus

Wintonotitan wattsi was named firstly for the town of Winton, followed by Titan, a giant in Greek mythology. Wattsi honours Keith Watts, the original person who discovered the bones and donated them to Queensland Museum back in 1974. This plant-eating, tall, basal sauropod was nicknamed "Clancy" and has been said to resemble a present-day giraffe.

A reconstruction of Australovenator, showing known fossils.

Australovenator wintonensis (meaning "Winton's Australian hunter") is named after Australia (from Latin Australis), and venator, the Latin word for hunter. The name wintonensis again means from the town of Winton. This allosauroid was nicknamed "Banjo". "The cheetah of his time, Banjo was light and agile. He could run down most prey with ease over open ground," said Hucknell. “He’s Australia's answer to Velociraptor, but many times bigger and more terrifying.”

"Banjo" and "Matilda" were both found entangled together in a 98- to 95-million-year-old billabong.

Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, was called upon to unveil the fossil remains on July 3 at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History.

“The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Queensland Museum have successfully partnered to uncover this greatest concentration of dinosaur bones ever found in Australia,” said Bligh. “This State Government-funded initiative has revealed to the world the first new sauropods to be named in Australia in over 75 years, and the most complete carnivorous dinosaur skeleton ever found in our country.”