Millions of years ago, Australia was home to a species of plant-eating dinosaurs that grew to about the size of a modern-day wallaby.
Paleontologists have identified Galleonosaurus dorisae, a new dinosaur that existed during the early Cretaceous period from five fossilized upper jaws buried in 125 million-year-old rocks unearthed along the coast of Victoria.
A New Herbivorous Dinosaur Discovered In Australia
The prehistoric creature was named after the unusual shape of its skull that resembled an overturned hull of a galleon and Dr. Doris Seegets-Villiers, a paleontologist who wrote a thesis on the area where the fossils were unearthed.
The Galleonosaurus dorisae, like modern kangaroos, had strong hind legs that allowed them to move across the landscape quickly. The creatures were members of a large family called the ornithopods, which include one of the earliest discovered dinosaurs, the Iguanodon.
"We know it would have been a two-legged, quite agile plant-eating dinosaur," stated Matthew Herne, a paleontologist from the University of New England and an author of the study published in the Journal of Paleontology on Monday, March 11.
The researchers discovered the fossils, ranging from young to mature, in the same area where other small ornithopods were also unearthed. This indicates that the newly identified herbivores lived in the forested floodplain that extended between Australia and Antarctica.
The Diverse Creatures Of The ancient Australian-Antarctic Rift
The fossilized remains of the Galleonosaurus dorisae were buried in sediments deposited by active volcanoes that once existed in the Australian continent and carried westward by the deep rivers that ran through the Australian-Antarctic rift valley millions of years ago.
Over time, the valley formed deep sedimentary basins that mixed with bones of dinosaurs and other vertebrates as wells as logs of fallen trees, giving researchers an idea of what life in the lost world looked like.
"This land has now vanished, but as 'time-travelers' we get snapshots of this remarkable world via the rocks and fossils exposed along the coast of Victoria," said Dr. Herne.
The fossils of the Diluvicursor pickeringi, another small ornithopod unearthed in Victoria and identified in 2018, were also buried in volcanic sediments at the bottom of deep powerful rivers. However, Dr. Hernes added that the Galleonosaurus dorisae fossils were about 12 million years older than the Diluvicursor pickeringi, suggesting that long evolutionary history and diversity of dinosaurs that lived along the lost world between Australia and Antarctica.
The researchers also stated that the Galleonosaurus dorisae ate different types of plant from the Qantassaurus intrepidus, also an ornithopod from the Gippsland region of Australia. This allowed them to peacefully coexist.