New dinosaurs found in Australia
Australian palaeontologists say they have discovered three new dinosaur species after examining fossils dug up in Queensland.
Writing in the journal PLOS One, they describe one of the creatures as a fearsome predator with three large slashing claws on each hand.
The other two were herbivores: one a tall giraffe-like creature, the other of stocky build like a hippopotamus.
The fossils date back nearly 100m years to the middle of the Cretaceous period.
They were found in rocks known as the Winton Formation.
Queensland Museum palaeontologist, Scott Hucknell, said the carnivore, Australovenator wintonensis, was even bigger and more terrifying than velociraptor made famous in the Jurassic Park movies.
“The cheetah of his time, Banjo was light and agile. He could run down most prey with ease over open ground,” he told reporters.
The dinosaurs have been named after characters in Australia’s famous song, Waltzing Matilda.
The carnivore has been named named after Banjo Patterson, who composed Waltzing Matilda in Winton in 1885, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper explained.
Clancy, Witonotitan wattsi, was a tall slender animal, while Matilda, Diamantinasaurus matildae, was more stocky and hippo-like.
These two plant-eating, four-legged sauropod species are new types of titanosaurs – the largest animals ever to walk the earth.
Banjo and Matilda – possibly predator and his prey – were found buried together in a 98m year old billabong, or stagnant pond.
The find was published in the public access journal Public Library of Science One, and was announced by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in Winton.
She said the discoveries were a major breakthrough in the scientific understanding of prehistoric life in Australia.
Museum Victoria palaeontologist, John Long, said the finds were “amazing”.
The newspaper quoted him saying that the finds put Australia back on the international map of big dinosaur discoveries for the first time since 1981, when the discovery of Muttaburrasaurus, a large four-legged herbivore that could rear up on two legs, was announced.
The new species will be part of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History under construction in Winton. This aims to house the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils when it is completed in 2015. news from news.bbc.co.uk
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