Fossils of a plant-eating dinosaur have been discovered in an archaeological site in Australia.
Bones of what appeared to be an Austrosaurus mckillopi dinosaur were found in Clutha Station near Richmond, Queensland. The site was first explored in 1932 when worker Henry Burgoyne Wade first stumbled upon the fragments of the dinosaur's backbone. The bones date back to at least 100 million years old.
"He (Wade) passed these bones on to an overseer [named] Harley John MacKillop," Dr. Timothy Holland of the Kronosaurus Korner recounted. MacKillop then showed the bones to his brother, medical doctor Mark MacKillop, who recognized that they were fossils.
The bones were sent to Queensland Museum afterward, where the scientists found that the fragments were different from the fossils that were recovered from Richmond because the bones came from a land dinosaur and not the usual marine animals.
Holland added that these fragments were the first bones from a cretaceous dinosaur to be found in Australlia. Austrosaurus mckillopi are gentle, land-based herbivores with a barrel-like body and long necks. They grew up to 15 meters or nearly 50 feet in length and belonged to the same genus as the brachiosaurus.
"Unusually, they were found in a marine setting," Holland added. "So it's likely that this animal had died and was washed out to sea."
However, because of lack of progress in finding the rest of the bones at the time, experts thought the site location and the opportunity to learn more about the dinosaur has been lost. But when Mayor John Wharton of Richmond surveyed the original dig site by helicopter, he was able to recover more fragments.
The find led to a full-scale dig which uncovered more bones, identified as the dinosaur's ribs, after a week's work digging through what Holland describes as enough soil to fill two swimming pools. However, the archaeologists thought that finding more fragments was worth all the effort.
"To see the ribs in the ground, lying side by side, was breathtaking," Holland said. "All that had been collected in the 1930s were a few chunks of vertebrae, so to find the ribs that went with them was fantastic."
Holland said that some of the bones will be put on display at the Kronosaurus Korner on Sept. 26.
Photo: James Emery | Flickr