Finding dinosaur bones in the flat plains of Australia is a difficult task. But paleontologists have just confirmed the existence of a previously unknown dinosaur called the Australotitan cooperensis. Nicknamed Cooper, it is the largest known species to have lived on the Australian continent.
Australotitan, which is Latin for “southern titan” (not “Australian titan”) is a sauropod spanning nearly 100 feet in legnth and 20 feet in height. It’s effectively the size of an indoor basketball court, and according to the Eromanga Natural History Museum, it weighs “the equivalent of 1,400 red kangaroos.”
Paleontologists discovered the titan near Cooper Creek, hence its species name “cooperensis.” It’s one of four sauropods known to have lived in Australia, though there’s no evidence that these species coexisted. Research suggests that Cooper and his relatives lived 92–96 million years ago, a time when Australia and Antarctica were connected.
But why did it take so long to verify that Cooper is a new dinosaur? Well, Cooper was excavated from what scientists call a “trample zone,” a muddy area that’s densely compressed by the weight of large animals (like elephants, rhinos, or giant dinosaurs). Cooper’s bones were encased in rock, which required removal for identification. Comparing Cooper’s bones to those of other dinosaurs was also a challenge, though it was a required step in verifying Cooper’s uniqueness.
Paleontologists could discover several new dinosaurs in the Australian plains as new technology helps to speed up excavation efforts. But digging in Australia is still a pain. Finding dinosaurs in other continents is a comparatively easy task, especially in places where large rock formations and mountains are eroded to help reveal ancient history.
Source: Eromanga Natural History Museum