Fossils of a giant herbivorous dinosaur dating back more than 100 million years have been unearthed in Australia, scientists say.
The bones believed to be from the Austrosaurus mckillopi were found at Clutha Station in Queensland in Australia.
The Austrosaurus mckillopi was a land-dwelling herbivorous dinosaur that grew up to 15 metres in length, with a barrel-like body and four pillar-like legs.
Timothy Holland, curator of Kronosaurus Korner, a museum at Richmond, Australia said in 1932 a worker found some fragments of the backbone.
The bones were eventually sent to the Queensland Museum in Brisbane where scientists realised they were different from all other fossils that had come from the Richmond area before.
“They weren’t from a marine creature, they were from a land-based dinosaur,” Holland said.
“They were the first Cretaceous sauropod bones u2014 and sauropods were long necked, sort of elephant-sized dinosaurs that we all know and love u2014 they were the first Cretaceous dinosaur bones found in Australia,” he told ‘abc.net.au’.
It had been thought the site location had been lost since then, Holland said.
However in 2014, Richmond Mayor John Wharton had searched Clutha Station from a helicopter and found two wooden posts marking the original dig site.
“So John knew where they were and he very kindly took myself and [another staff member] out to Clutha and we bounced around in a LandCruiser through the paddocks for about three hours u2014 and we couldn’t find anything,” Holland said.
“John made the decision to call in a helicopter and he took off into the heavens and…lo and behold, about 10 minutes later he landed and he had these two large chunks of bone in his hand – I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Holland said a full-scale excavation was done after some preliminary digs in May 2014.
“We went back and did a full-scale dig at the end of July this year,” he said.
“We took a backhoe with us – I guess the thinking was that some of the bones had started working their way up through the black soil over time.
“We were hoping to use this backhoe to carefully scrape away the top of this black soil where we found some of these smaller chunks of bone to uncover fossils that were probably about one to two metres underneath the ground, where they hadn’t starting breaking apart and coming to the surface, where they were in better condition.
“About 1.5 metres we started finding this really nice run of rib bones u2014 some of them very large u2014 about 1.6 metres in length.
“It was so exciting to see this wonderful glossy pinky-white bone coming up to the ground and knowing we were the first people to see these bones ever and it likely belonged to a specimen that played a big part in Australian palaeontological history,” Holland said.
Holland said the bones that were found were approximately 104 million years old.