A newly described long-necked dinosaur with hips the height of a two-story building is the largest beast to ever walk Australia, according to a new study.
The massive creature — a titanosaur, the largest of the long-necked sauropod dinosaurs — was discovered in Queensland’s outback by paleontologists. Australotitan cooperensis, or “the southern titan from the Cooper,” was named after the Cooper Creek system where it was discovered. However, the team refers to it as “Cooper” for short.
Cooper would have stood about 21 feet (6.5 meters) tall at the hip and measured up to 98 feet (30 meters) from its snout to the tip of its tail when it was alive. It most likely weighed between 25 and 82 tons (23 metric tons).
Sandy Mackenzie, the 14-year-old son of study senior author Robyn Mackenzie, director of the Eromanga Natural History Museum, discovered Cooper’s remains in 2004. The dinosaur’s massive fossilized bones were discovered in the Winton Formation, west of Eromanga, and researchers have spent much of this time excavating and studying its many fossilized bones.
“We needed to compare its bones to the bones of other species from Queensland and globally to make sure Australotitan was a different species,” study first author Scott Hocknull, a vertebrate paleontologist and senior curator of geology at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, said in a statement.
Technology Used for the process
To expedite the process, the researchers used 3D-scanning technology to digitally scan each bone and then compared the scans to the bones of other sauropods.
“The 3D scans we created allowed me to carry around 1000s of kilos [of] dinosaur bones in a 7 kilogram [15.4 pounds] laptop,” Hocknull explained. “Even better, we can now share these scans and knowledge with the rest of the world online.”
Cooper was found to be closely related to three previously discovered sauropod dinosaurs — Wintonotitan, Diamantinasaurus, and Savannasaurus — whose fossils were also discovered in the Winton Formation and date back about 96 million to 92 million years, during the Cretaceous period.
“We discovered that Australotitan was the largest in the family, followed by Wintonotitan with big hips and long legs, while the two smaller sauropods, Diamantinasaurus and Savannasaurus, were shorter in stature and heavily set,” Hocknull said.
Furthermore, a rocky site discovered in the Queensland outback that is nearly 330 feet (100 m) long appears to have been a sauropod highway, “where the dinosaurs walked along trampling mud and bones into the soft ground,” according to Hocknull.
Some of Cooper’s bones were crushed, most likely by the weight of other sauropods, which also left fossilized footprints on the highway, according to the researchers’ blog post.