Science

New Species Of Dinosaur Discovered In Australia; Could Describe Evolutionary Tree

By J Russ I. , Oct 21, 2016 05:17 AM EDT

The origin as to how dinosaurs managed to make the long trek from South America to Australia remains moot among scientists. And with the new discovery of a new species in Down Under, the debate will undoubtedly ignite again.

The species belongs to one of the most iconic dinosaur groups to ever grazed film. Known as sauropods, the species include the brontosaurus, the gentle plant-eating giants that have a long neck and four enormous thick legs.

Decades Of Work Led To One Of The Most Complete Sauropod Skeleton Uncovered

The new dinosaur is named "Savannasaurus elliottorum" after the landscape it was found in, and David Elliot, a paleontologist who uncovered the find. Elliot stumbled upon the bones when he was herding sheep near his home by the Winton geological formation in 2005, said The Guardian.

Decades after the day they discovered the sauropod - nicknamed Wade - and years of working hard on removing hard siltstones from loads of rock-encrusted bones, Elliot, his wife, scientists, and volunteers revealed one of the most complete sauropod skeletons to ever dug up in the country. The collected bones amounted to 17 pallets' worth of fossil fragment making up 20 percent of the creature's structure.

The size of it reached about 12 to 15 meters long and is reported to date back 95 million years ago. The find could help scientists in further detailing the evolutionary tree of related dinosaurs, as well as track their movement as to how the sauropods managed to make the long trek.

"The more anatomical information you can derive from a specimen, the more accurately you can place it on the dinosaur family tree," said Stephen Poropat, a paleontologist who works with the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum.

At first, Elliot thought the bones belonged to a meat-eating therapod. Only when-when his wife Judith, also a scientist, smacked two pieces of bones together did he realized that it was a complete toe-bone from a leaf-eating sauropod.

Warming Event Could've Made The Long Trek Possible For Wade And Matilda

Around the same time that they found Wade, Elliot also uncovered another dinosaur though it's a previously described species. "Diamantinasaurus matildae," nicknamed Matilda, is also presumed to be unique in Australia, according to the Telegraph.

Both species are thought to have traveled south from Asia. Increasing evidence regarding the matter reveals otherwise.

"It's now emerging that most of our dinosaurs have a South American affinity," John Long, an Australian paleontologist. Wade and Matilda, along with other dinosaurs, is theorized to have traveled from South America to Africa, and finally to Australia, with the regions - including Antarctica - thought to have been part of a megacontinent known as Gondwana.

During Cretaceous period, both species wouldn't have survived the trek because of the frigid temperature back then. However, past research suggests that a window opened around 105 million years ago that warmed the region allowing the southern passage possible for the dinosaurs.

 

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