New dinosaurs for Australia

26 June, 2011

The 115 million-year-old tyrannosaurid fossil
The 115 million-year-old tyrannosaurid fossil
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: What are the latest dinosaur finds in Australia?

Answer: There have been several new discoveries of dinosaurs in Australia over the last few years, many of which are from Theropod (meat-eating) dinosaurs. We now know that relatives of some of the world’s best known Theropod dinosaurs lived on the land that was to become Australia. Amongst these interesting discoveries are:

Australovenator, and Australian relative of Allosaurus found in Queensland and described in 2009.

A pelvic bone fragment from a relative of Tyrannosaurus found near Cape Otway and described in 2010, and most recently

A single vertebra from a Spinosaur, also found near Cape Otway described in 2011.

Although the recently described Spinosaur bone is small and fragmentary, it has enough visible characteristics to make it clear that it came from a Spinosaur. There are also parts of the single bone that indicate it was from a juvenile. Spinosaurs were previously known from Africa, and one large species, Spinosaurus aegypticus, was immortalised in the film Jurassic Park 3, where it famously defeated a Tyrannosaurus. Although this Hollywood version of events would never have happened as depicted in the movie (T. rex and S. aegypticus did not live at the same time, or in the same place), we now know that relatives of both Tyrannosaurs and Spinosaurus lived alongside each other here in Victoria.

The discovery of fossils from these meat-eating dinosaurs in Australia indicates that these dinosaur groups were more cosmopolitan than previously thought – they were widely distributed before continental break up, and Gondwana (the landmass that later broke up to become Australia, Antarctica, South America and Africa) had its own group of meat-eaters that evolved separately from their better known counterparts from elsewhere in the world.

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