Australian Dinosaur Story

Australian dinosaurs

 

Examples of Australian dinosaurs

The following are examples of some of the dinosaurs that we know once lived in Australia.

Hypsilodontid dinosaurs

This is the group of dinosaurs that lived in southern Australia in the Cretaceous Period. While Hypsilodontids have been found world wide, scientists have discovered a richness of species in southern Victoria. Being close to the South Pole, the climate there was quite cold, with long dark winters when there was no sunlight. Hypsilodontids may have exploited the near polar conditions better than other species. Fossils of about twelve species of Hypsilodonts have been found along the south coast of Victoria, including sites near Cape Otway.

The Hypsilodontid dinosaurs were Ornithopods, and were quite small, only up to 1 metre in size (about the size of a present day wallaby). They walked and ran on their hind legs, with a long neck, and a long balancing tail. They were herbivores, eating low growing vegetation such as the ferns and mosses that grew in the cold climate.

Hypsilodontids had very large eyes and ability to see in poor light. This would have allowed them to find food during the long, cold winters.

Image. Hypsilodontid dinosaur.

Minmi

Minmi was an 'Ankylosaur' (a dinosaur covered with bony armour plates for protection from predators). It was about 2 metres long, about a metre tall, and walked on four legs. It was a herbivore.

Minmi lived in the Early Cretaceous Period.

Fossil remains of Minmi are known from central Queensland.

Image. Minmi dinosaur.

Muttaburrasaurus ('Mutt-a-burra-saw-rus')

This was a large Ornithopod dinosaur. It walked about on all four feet, although it is believed it could run or rear back to eat on its hind legs. It was about 7 or 8 metres tall and was a herbivore, with a big beak and razor sharp teeth for shearing tough vegetation.

Muttaburrasaurus lived during the Mid Cretaceous Period.

This dinosaur is known from fossil remains from Muttaburra, in central Queensland, from the opal fields of Lightning Ridge in western New South Wales, and possibly from Coober Pedy in South Australia.

Image. Muttaburrasaurus dinosaur.

Ozraptor ('Oz-rap-tor')

This was a large Theropod dinosaur. It was about 3 metres tall, and moved about on its two hind legs. It was a carnivore.

Ozraptor lived in the Jurassic Period.

Fossil remains (a leg bone) of Ozraptor are known from near Geraldton, Western Australia.

Image. Ozraptor dinosaur.

Rhoetosaurus ('Reet-o-saur-rus')

This was a huge Sauropod dinosaur. It is one of the very few Sauropods to have been found in Australia. It had a huge body, a long tail, and a long neck with a small head. Altogether it was about 12 metres long.

Rhoetosaurus lived in the Jurassic Period.

Its fossil remains were discovered near Roma in Queensland.

Image. Rhoetosaurus dinosaur.

'Elliot' the Sauropod

This is the informal name for a giant Sauropod that was discovered in 1999 near Winton in Queensland. The first bones found were part of a thigh bone and some pieces of vertebrae (back bones). Excavation of the site is still continuing.

Elliot lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, and was a herbivore. He was about 20 metres long, about 4 metres high at the hip, and would have weighed about 25 tonnes. Scientists believe that it is a type of dinosaur known as Austrosaurus ('Aus- tro- saur- rus').

Image. 'Elliot' the Sauropod dinosaur.

Lark Quarry dinosaurs

Although dinosaur fossils are generally rare in Australia compared to some other places in the world, we do have some of the world's best preserved and most abundant dinosaur trackways.

In particular, footprints found in central Queensland at Lark Quarry near Winton and along the coastline north of Broome in Western Australia have provided scientists with lots of information about they way in which dinosaurs may have moved and lived that would have been very difficult to learn about in any other way.

Some dinosaur species are known only by their footprints, which have been preserved in ancient mud. The names of these footprints all end in '-opus', which means 'foot of'. Australia has several dinosaurs known only from their footprints.

Skartopus ('Skart-oh-pus')

The term Skartopus refers to the footprints made by a small Theropod dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous Period. This Theropod belonged to a group of dinosaurs called 'Coelurosaurs'. They were small carnivores, and may have eaten insects, frogs and small reptiles. The tracks that they left are about the size of tracks made by common chickens, so scientists have calculated that they would have been about 20 centimetres high at the hip. They also walked and ran on their hind legs, and would have used their speed to hunt and to escape from predators.

Image. Coelurosaur dinosaur.

Tyrannosauropus ('Ty-ran-oh-saur-oh-pus')

Tyrannosauropus footprints at Lark Quarry were left by a very large Theropod dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous. It was a carnivore, and may have hunted and eaten smaller dinosaurs and other reptiles. It would have had sharp pointed teeth, and claws on its small front legs.

It walked and ran on its hind legs. Its footprints are about 50-70 centimetres long, with three large toes each with a big sharp claw. These tracks are similar to those made by other Tyrannosaurus dinosaurs from North America.

The tracks indicate that the Theropod was about 8 or 9 metres long, with a hip height of about 2.5 metres, and a head height of about 3.5 metres. It could walk at about 8 or 9 kilometres per hours, and may have been able to run much faster.

Image. Theropod dinosaur.

Wintonopus ('Win-ton-oh-pus')

The Wintonopus footprints left at Lark Quarry are from an Ornithopod dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous Period. It was quite a small dinosaur, varying from about the size of a chicken to the size of an emu. It moved around on its rear legs much as present day birds do. The tracks left behind at Lark Quarry in central Queensland show that this Ornithopod lived in herds, and could run quite fast to escape from predators.

Image. Ornithopod dinosaur.

 

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