Massive fossil haul in Queensland

Last updated 12:53 18/06/2013
Australia dino haul
Australian Age of Dinosaurs
BIG DIG: Lab manager Trish Sloan with a dinosaur bone bed.

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A treasure trove of massive dinosaur fossils has been unearthed in Australia's outback.

The discovery comes as a study of ancient kangaroo teeth from south-eastern Queensland suggests that between two and a half and five million years ago, the region was not arid as previously thought.

A two-week dinosaur dig near Winton, north-east of Longreach, uncovered giant limbs, vertebrae and two-metre-long rib fossils believed to be 98 million years old.

Field palaeontologist David Elliott said it was the most productive two weeks of digging he had experienced in more than a decade of dinosaur discovery.

"As fast as we tried to dig around one bone, we uncovered another,'' he said.

''There were bones everywhere; giant limbs, vertebrae and two-metre long ribs stacked across each other and joined together by rocky concretions.

''It was impossible to remove them safely without taking half a dozen other bones that were joined to them.''

Museum Research Associate Dr Stephen Poropat said the bones likely belonged to one of Australia's largest dinosaurs - the Wintonotitan.

''We suspect that it could be Wintonotitan, but as very few complete bones of Wintonotitan have been found, we will need to wait until the bones have been prepared before we are sure,'' Poropat. ''It could be a completely new species.''

The area surrounding Winton is famed for its prehistoric discoveries and is known as the Fossil Triangle.

In 2001, Elliot found the fossilised remains of a giant sauropod, nicknamed Elliot, while mustering his sheep.

After the discovery, the sheep and cattle farmer turned to dinosaurs and the following year founded the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History.

The bones of a smaller dinosaur, dubbed Mary, were found beside Elliot in 2003.

In 2010, Matilda (a Diamantinsauras matildae), Clancy (a Wintonotitan wattsi) and Banjo (a Australovenator wintonensis) were discovered during an annual dig at a prehistoric billabong.

Meanwhile, chemical analysis of kangaroo teeth enamel has revealed that south-eastern Queensland was once a mosaic of tropical forests, wetlands and grasslands.

American researchers were granted permission by the Queensland Museum to examine the teeth belonging to three kangaroos and a giant, wombat-like diprotodon found near the town of Chinchilla.

Their results, published online in the journal Plos One, suggest the extinct marsupials ate similar food to the tropics-dwelling kangaroos of today.

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The findings are expected to help researchers determine why the animals became extinct.

- Brisbane Times

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