According to paleontologists, the new species of giant sauropod is among the top 15 largest dinosaurs in the world and belongs to the group of titanosaurs.
Paleontologist Robin Mackenzie and her husband Stewart were driving livestock on their farm near the city of Eromanga in southwestern Queensland, Australia, when they discovered the bones of a giant creature. It happened back in 2004, and now, after many years of painstaking excavation and study, the Eromangi Museum of Natural History has officially recognized that the found remains belong to the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Australia.
As described in a study published today in the journal PeerJ, the lizard-footed Australotitan cooperensis - or simply Cooper, as its discoverers nicknamed the titanosaur - was massive, with a long neck, reaching 25-30 meters in length and 5-6.5 meters in height.
Stewart and Robin Mackenzie with Cooper's remains / © Eromanga Natural History Museum
“This is a huge fantastic beast. Imagine someone the size of a basketball court walking on land,”the researchers said. The giant lived on the plains of present-day Queensland between 92-96 million years ago, when the Australian continent was still annexed to Antarctica, and fed on plants.
Cooper's bones had to be compared with all other sauropod species scattered in museums around the world and known both in Australia and abroad. In this case, the scientists were helped by digital 3D scanning technology, thanks to which thousands of kilograms of the remains of the Australotitan cooperensis were placed in the laptop's memory.
Comparison of Cooper with other Australian dinosaurs / © Eromanga Natural History Museum
As it turns out, all four sauropods that lived in Australia during the same period are more closely related to each other than to dinosaurs found in other regions. But, apparently, they evolved in different ways and, as a result, occupied different habitats.
How Cooper could have looked during his lifetime / © Eromanga Natural History Museum
During excavations, paleontologists found the remains of another, but smaller sauropod - they were, as it were, carved into the rock. Apparently, his skeleton was trampled by other dinosaurs. “Hopefully this will attract people from overseas to Queensland to see the amazing discoveries we have made in this part of Australia,” concluded Robin McKenzie.