Now adding to the number of species in this collection of supersized sauropods, paleontologists in Australia have officially recognized the discovery of a new member of this colossal family. It’s not only the most massive examples ever found on the continent, but it’s also one of the greatest to have ever existed.
Named Australotitan cooperensis, this mega titanosaurian specimen is the largest species of dinosaur ever found in Australia. The long-necked, plant-eating beast the scientists have nicknamed Cooper lived during the Cretaceous period roughly 92-96 million years ago.
A paper published this week in the online scientific journal Paleontology and Evolutionary Science detailed their findings.
“Australotitan cooperensis adds to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland, and just as importantly showcases a totally new area for dinosaur discovery in Australia,” said Dr. Scott Hocknull, lead researcher at the Queensland Museum and the University of Melbourne, in a press release.
Titanosaurs are a diverse bunch and includes species ranging from huge terrestrial vertebrates down to smaller sauropods not much bigger than modern-day elephants. When it was alive, Australotitan measured between 82-98 feet long, stood 16.4-21.3 feet high, and had a total mass of somewhere between 23 and 74 tons.
“This may look like a simple picture but in reality it includes many years of hard work - step by step, bone by bone, muscle by muscle,” paleoartist Vladislav Konstantinov posted on his Instagram account. “I'm so glad to see the results of this long-term process of studying and exploration!”
The fossilized remains of the huge new dinosaur were originally unearthed back in 2005 on a family farm in the southern-central Winton Formation of the Eromanga Basin, Australia.
“In the early 2000s, Australia was at the beginning of a dinosaur-rush, with a number of significant new species of dinosaurs and megafauna being discovered in the past 20 years,” said Dr. Jim Thompson, CEO of Queensland Museum Network. “Australia is one of the last frontiers for dinosaur discovery and Queensland is quickly cementing itself as the paleo-capital of the nation — there is still plenty more to discover.”
An international crew of paleontologists, geologists, and citizen scientists spent 15 years investigating the fossilized forelimb and hindlimb bones using 3-D digital scanning tech to compare the dino with its nearest relatives.
“We compared the three species found to the north, near Winton, to our new Eromanga giant and it looks like Australia’s largest dinosaurs were all part of one big happy family,” Dr. Hocknull explained.
“We found that Australotitan cooperensis was the largest in the family, followed by Wintonotitan wattsi with big hips and long legs, whilst the two smaller sauropods, Diamantinasaurus matildae and Savannasaurus elliottorum were shorter in stature and heavily-set.”