Largest dinosaur discovered in Australia identified as a new species

Largest dinosaur discovered in Australia identified as a new species
Rendering from Eromanga Natural History Museum

A huge dinosaur whose fossils were discovered in 2006 in Australia has been formally identified as a specimen of a new species, named Australotitan cooperensis, and is one of the largest animals known to have walked the earth.

This dinosaur belongs to the titanosaur group that lived nearly 100 million years ago. Specimens of this group of long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs have been found on every continent.

It is estimated to have been 5 to 6.5 metres tall and 25 to 30 metres long, making it the largest known Australian dinosaur.

“Based on limb size comparisons, this new titanosaur is among the five largest in the world,” said Robyn Mackenzie of the Eromanga Natural History Museum in the southwestern state of Queensland (in the northeast of Australia).

The fossilised bones were discovered in 2006 on Mr. Mackenzie's family farm, a thousand kilometers west of Brisbane, in the Eromanga Basin, and the skeleton was named “Cooper” after a creek near the discovery site.

This discovery was initially kept secret while the researchers patiently carried out the excavation site. The skeleton was first displayed to the public in 2007.

Scott Hocknull, a paleontologist at the Queensland Museum, said it was a “very long and tedious process” that confirmed that Cooper was indeed a new species.

The research, which involved 3D comparisons of Cooper's bones with those of his closest cousins, was published Monday in the scientific journal PeerJ.

Many other dinosaur bones have been found in the same area, Hocknull said, adding that more digging is needed.

Map from Eromanga Natural History Museum

“Discoveries like these are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Hocknull.

The largest known dinosaur to date is Patagotitan mayorum, the “Patagonian Titan,” discovered in Argentina and described in 2017.

Paleontologists have estimated that it could weigh about 70 tons, equivalent to about 10 African elephants, and measure about 37 metres long and eight metres at the withers.

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