free debate

July 10, 2009

Dinosaurs Down Under

Today, Australia is the home of some of the wierdest animals on the planet. Suprisingly, though, it's fossil record is very incomplete. There are practically no fossils there, compared to continents like South America and Africa, which are about the same size as Australia. There is one formation in Queensland, however, that has started turning out numerous finds. Recently, they found a jackpot: not one, but three new dinosaur genera. Two of these are massive sauropods; the third is a therapod carnivore.

The carnivorous dinosaur, Australovenator wintonensis, aka "Banjo," is like Australia's version of a Velociraptor: light, agile, and deadly. Unlike Velociraptor, which is about 3 feet tall, however, "Banjo" is much larger. It belongs to the carcharodontosaurs, the largest carnivorous dinosaurs to walk the earth.
The two sauropod species are also some of the largest of their kind. Both Witonotitan wattsi (“Clancy”) and Diamantinasaurus matildae (“Matilda”) are titanosaurs, the largest dinosaurs to ever exist. "Clancy" might have been similar to a modern giraffe; "Matilda" was built more like a modern hippo.

The dinosaurs are about 98 million years old, living in the mid-Cretaceous period. They help fill in a few of the gaps in Australia's weak fossil record.