Fossils: Huge dinosaur the same length as a BASKETBALL HEAD roamed Australia 96 million years ago

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A huge sauropod dinosaur dubbed the “southern titan” roamed Australia as long as a basketball court 96 million years ago, a study reports.

Experts from the Queensland Museum and the Eromanga Natural History Museum described the new species, called ‘Australotitan cooperensis’, which was unearthed in 2007.

Paleontologists found the fossil specimen, nicknamed ‘Cooper’, in Cooper Creek in southwestern Queensland, after which the dinosaur also got its species name.

The record for Australia’s largest dinosaur, the southern titan reached up to 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) high at the hip and up to 98 feet (30 meters) long.

Scientists have estimated that the hulking Australotitan cooperensis could have weighed a whopping 163,142 pounds (74,000 kilograms).

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A huge sauropod dinosaur dubbed the

A huge sauropod dinosaur dubbed the “southern titan” had roamed Australia as long as a basketball court 96 million years ago, a study found. Pictured: Australotitan cooperensis

Experts from the Queensland Museum and the Eromanga Natural History Museum described the new species, called 'Australotitan cooperensis', which was unearthed in 2007 (photo, with Queensland Museum paleontologist Scott Hocknull at right)

Experts from the Queensland Museum and the Eromanga Natural History Museum described the new species, called ‘Australotitan cooperensis’, which was unearthed in 2007 (photo, with Queensland Museum paleontologist Scott Hocknull at right)

STATS ON SOUTHERN TITAN

Name: Australotitanian cooperensis

Type: Giant long neck sauropod

Age: Lived 96 million years ago

Eating pattern: Herbivorous (plant-eating)

Height: up to 21.3 feet at hip

Length: 98 feet, rear end

Weight: Up to 163,142 lbs

‘Australotitan adds to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland,’ said Queensland Museum author and paleontologist Scott Hocknull.

Just as importantly, he added, “demonstrates a totally new area for dinosaur discovery in Australia.”

‘To make sure Australotitan was a different species, we had to compare its bones with the bones of other species from Queensland and around the world. This was a very long and arduous task.’

Because they are large, heavy and fragile, dinosaur fossils are kept in museums that can be thousands of miles apart, and comparing them can be a challenging feat.

To fix this, the team used new digital technologies to create a three-dimensional scan of each of Australotitan’s bones.

These were then compared to the southern titan’s closest relatives, while also being added to the Queensland Museum’s online collection for others to access in the future.

‘With the 3D scans we made, I was able to transport thousands of kilos of dinosaur bones in a 7 kilo laptop. In fact, we can now share these scans and knowledge with the world online,” says Dr Hocknull.

The team’s analysis concluded that Australotitan was closely related to three other sauropods found in Australia that lived 92-96 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period – Diamantinasaurus, Savannasaurus and Wintonotitan.

‘We compared the three species found in the north, near Winton, with our new Eromanga giant and it seems that Australia’s largest dinosaurs were all part of one big happy family,’ explains Dr Hocknull.

“We found that the Australotitan was the largest of the family, followed by Wintonotitan with large hips and long legs, while the two smaller sauropods, Diamantinasaurus and Savannasaurus, were shorter in stature and heavily set.”

'Australotitan adds to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland,' says Queensland Museum author and paleontologist Scott Hocknull, pictured here with 'Cooper's' fossil bones and 3D reconstruction

‘Australotitan adds to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland,’ says Queensland Museum author and paleontologist Scott Hocknull, pictured here with ‘Cooper’s’ fossil bones and 3D reconstruction

The record for Australia's largest dinosaur, the southern titan reached up to 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) high at the hip and up to 98 feet (30 meters) long.  Pictured: A reconstruction of Australotitan with Dr Hocknull, right, for scale

The record for Australia’s largest dinosaur, the southern titan reached up to 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) high at the hip and up to 98 feet (30 meters) long. Pictured: A reconstruction of Australotitan with Dr Hocknull, right, for scale

In addition to describing Australotitan, the researchers also uncovered other discoveries in the Eromanga area that await further study, Dr Hocknull said.

“Numerous dinosaur skeletons have been found in the past 17 years, including one with a nearly complete tail,” he added.

‘A rock wall, almost 100 meters’ [328 feet] long, represents a sauropod trail, where the dinosaurs walked as they trampled mud and bones into the soft ground.

“Discoveries like these are just the tip of the iceberg. Our ultimate goal is to find the evidence that tells the evolving story of Queensland, hundreds of millions of years in the making.”

Scientists have estimated that the hulking Australotitan cooperensis could have weighed a whopping 163,142 pounds (74,000 kilograms).  Pictured: Paleontologist and director of the Eromanga Natural History Museum, Robyn Mackenzie, poses with the dinosaur remains

Scientists have estimated that the hulking Australotitan cooperensis could have weighed a whopping 163,142 pounds (74,000 kilograms). Pictured: Paleontologist and director of the Eromanga Natural History Museum, Robyn Mackenzie, poses with the dinosaur remains

“Discoveries like Australotitan tell the story of a time when dinosaurs roamed Queensland,” said Art Minister Leeanne Enoch, adding that the exciting new discovery confirms Queensland as Australia’s dinosaur capital.

“Experts from the Queensland Museum have been on site to share their knowledge with regional museums and to preserve and better understand our state’s diverse paleontological histories.”

“Australia is one of the last frontiers for dinosaur discovery and Queensland is rapidly cementing itself as the nation’s paleo capital – and there’s much more to explore,” said Jim Thompson, CEO of Queensland Museum Network.

“I’m proud that Queensland Museum paleontologists have been part of many of these amazing discoveries and are leaders in their fields.”

The study’s full findings were published in the journal pearJ.

Paleontologists found the fossil specimen, nicknamed 'Cooper' in Cooper Creek in southwestern Queensland, after which the dino also got its species name

Paleontologists found the fossil specimen, nicknamed ‘Cooper’ in Cooper Creek in southwestern Queensland, after which the dino also got its species name

HOW DID THE DINOSAURS SET OUT ABOUT 66 MILLION YEARS AGO?

Dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth about 66 million years ago, before suddenly becoming extinct.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.

For years it was believed that the changing climate was destroying the food chain of the huge reptiles.

In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.

This is an element that is rare on Earth, but found in large quantities in space.

When dated, it coincided exactly with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.

A decade later, scientists discovered the massive Chicxulub crater on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates back to the period in question.

Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are linked and that they were both likely caused by a huge asteroid that crashed into Earth.

At the projected size and impact speed, the collision would have created a massive shock wave and likely triggered seismicity.

The fallout would have created plumes of ash that likely covered the entire planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive.

Other animal and plant species had shorter time spans between generations that allowed them to survive.

There are several other theories as to what caused the famous animals’ demise.

An early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs, and another holds that poisonous angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them.

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