Nav: Home

New wallaby-sized dinosaur from the ancient Australian-Antarctic rift valley

March 11, 2019

A new, wallaby-sized herbivorous dinosaur has been identified from five fossilized upper jaws in 125 million year old rocks from the Cretaceous period of Victoria, southeastern Australia.

Reported in the Journal of Paleontology, the new dinosaur is named "Galleonosaurus dorisae," and is the first dinosaur named from the Gippsland region of Australia in 16 years. According to Dr Matthew Herne, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New England, NSW, and lead author of the new study, "the jaws of Galleonosaurus dorisae include young to mature individuals--the first time an age range has been identified from the jaws of an Australian dinosaur."

Galleonosaurus was a small-bodied herbivorous dinosaur within the large family called ornithopods. "These small dinosaurs would have been agile runners on their powerful hind legs," explained Dr Herne.

The name Galleonosaurus dorisae refers to the shape of the upper jaw, resembling the upturned hull of a sailing ship called a galleon, and also honours the work of Dr Doris Seegets-Villiers, who produced her PhD thesis on the palaeontology of the locality where the fossils were discovered.

Galleonosaurus is the fifth small ornithopod genus named from Victoria, which according to Dr Herne, "confirms that on a global scale, the diversity of these small-bodied dinosaurs had been unusually high in the ancient rift valley that once extended between the spreading continents of Australia and Antarctica." Small ornithopods appear to have thrived on the vast forested floodplain within the ancient rift valley.

At the time of Galleonosaurus, sediments were shed from a four thousand km long massif of large, actively erupting volcanoes that once existed along the eastern margin of the Australian continent. Some of these sediments were carried westward by large rivers into the Australian-Antarctic rift valley where they formed deep sedimentary basins. However, as these sediments washed down the rivers of the rift valley the bones of dinosaurs, such as Galleonosaurus and other vertebrates, along with the logs of fallen trees, became mixed in. According to Dr Herne, "this land has now vanished, but as 'time-travellers' we get snapshots of this remarkable world via the rocks and fossils exposed along the coast of Victoria."

The new article shows that Galleonosaurus dorisae is a close relative of Diluvicursor pickeringi; another small ornithopod named by Dr Herne and his team in 2018, from excavations along the Otway coast to the west of the Gippsland region. Interestingly, "the jaws of Galleonosaurus and the partial skeleton of Diluvicursor were similarly buried in volcanic sediments on the floor of deep powerful rivers," explained Dr Herne. "However, Galleonosaurus is about 12 million years older than Diluvicursor, showing that the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in the Australian-Antarctic rift had been lengthy."

The jaws of Galleonosaurus were discovered by volunteers of the Dinosaur Dreaming project during excavations near the town of Inverloch. The most complete jaw and the key specimen carrying the name Galleonosaurus dorisae was discovered in 2008 by the seasoned fossil hunter Gerrit ('Gerry') Kool, from the nearby town of Wonthaggi. Gerry and his wife Lesley have been instrumental in organizing the Dinosaur Dreaming excavations along the Victorian coast for 25 years.

Prior to discovery of Galleonosaurus dorisae, the only other ornithopod known from the Gippsland region was Qantassaurus intrepidus, named in 1999. However, Qantassaurus had a shorter more robust snout than that of Galleonosaurus, explained Dr Herne, who added, "we consider that these two, similarly-sized dinosaurs fed on different plant types, which would have allowed them to coexist."

The new study reveals that the ornithopods from Victoria are closely related to those from Patagonia in Argentina. "We are steadily building a picture of terrestrial dinosaur interchange between the shifting Gondwanan continents of Australia, South America and Antarctica during the Cretaceous period," added Dr Herne

These are exciting times for dinosaur research, explained Dr Herne: "Using advanced techniques, such as 3D micro-CT scanning and printing, new anatomical information is being revealed on dinosaurs such as Galleonosaurus dorisae. These techniques are helping us to delve deeper into the mysterious world of dinosaur ecology--what they ate, how they moved and how they coexisted--and their evolutionary relationships with dinosaurs from other continents."
-end-
Images and a PDF copy of the paper are available on request.

Contacts:
John Clare, Communications Manager, Cambridge University Press
Tel. +44 (0)1223 326173
Email: jclare@cambridge.org / press@cambridge.org

Notes to editors:

1. Paper details: New small-bodied ornithopods (Dinosauria, Neornithischia) from the Early Cretaceous Wonthaggi Formation (Strzelecki Group) of the Australian-Antarctic rift system, with revision of Qantassaurus intrepidus Rich and Vickers-Rich, 1999. Matthew C. Herne, Jay P. Nair, Alistair R. Evans, and Alan M. Tait. Journal of Paleontology (2019). DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2018.95

2. About the author: Dr Matthew (Matt) Herne is a vertebrate palaeontologist whose main research focus is on Australian dinosaurs. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, where he is investigating the functional anatomy and phylogenetics of Australian ornithopod dinosaurs, such as the iconic large-bodied taxon Muttaburrasaurus. In 2018, Matt named the new small-bodied ornithopod Diluvicursor pickeringi from Victoria (PeerJ) and was a co-author on a Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP) monograph detailing the remarkable dinosaur trackways in Broome, Western Australia. Matt also has a museum curatorial and hands-on exhibits background. He helped set up the new Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Alberta, Canada (2015), and has worked on recreating the skeletons of dinosaur giants, such as 'Seismosaurus', for museum displays globally.

3. About the Journal of Paleontology: The Journal of Paleontology is a journal of the Paleontological Society. It publishes original articles and notes on the systematics, phylogeny, paleoecology, paleogeography, and evolution of fossil organisms. It emphasizes specimen-based research and features high quality illustrations. All taxonomic groups are treated, including invertebrates, microfossils, plants, vertebrates, and ichnofossils.

4. About the Paleontological Society: The Paleontological Society is an international nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to the advancement of the science of paleontology: invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, and paleobotany. The Society was founded in 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, and was incorporated in April 1968 in the District of Columbia. The Society has several membership categories, including regular, student, and retired. Members, representing 40 countries, consist of professional paleontologists, academicians, science editors, earth-science teachers, museum specialists, and undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral scholars, as well as avocational paleontologists.

5. About Cambridge University Press: Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 50,000 titles covering academic research and professional development, as well as school-level education and English language teaching. Playing a leading role in today's international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world.

Cambridge University Press

Related Dinosaur Articles:

Japan's largest complete dinosaur skeleton discovered
The complete skeleton of an eight-meter-long dinosaur has been unearthed from marine deposits dating back 72 million years at Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, making it the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan, according to researchers.
First baby of a gigantic Oviraptor-like dinosaur belongs to a new species
First baby of a gigantic Oviraptor-like dinosaur belongs to a new species.
'Last African dinosaur' discovered in Moroccan mine
One of the last dinosaurs living in Africa before their extinction 66 million years ago has been discovered in a phosphate mine in northern Morocco.
Headless dinosaur reunited with its skull, one century later
Researchers at the University of Alberta have matched the headless skeleton to a Corythosaurus skull from the university's Paleontology Museum that had been collected in 1920 by George Sternberg to the headless dinosaur.
What can we learn from dinosaur proteins?
Researchers recently confirmed it is possible to extract proteins from 80-million-year-old dinosaur bones.
80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed
Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus.
Our ancestors evolved faster after dinosaur extinction
Our ancestors evolved three times faster in the 10 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs than in the previous 80 million years, according to UCL researchers.
New species of horned dinosaur with a spiked 'shield'
A chance fossil discovery in Montana a decade ago has led to the identification of an audacious new species of horned dinosaur, Spiclypeus shipporum, according to a study published May 18, 2016, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jordan Mallon, from the Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada, and colleagues.
EARTH: Making tracks through the dinosaur diamond
EARTH Magazine travels through time to meet the major players of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous -- from sauropods and theropods to protomammals -- that created the rich tapestry of life in this region millions of years ago.
Canuckosaur! First Canadian 'dinosaur' becomes Dimetrodon borealis
A 'dinosaur' fossil originally discovered on Prince Edward Island has been shown to have steak knife-like teeth, and researchers from U of T Mississauga, Carleton University and the Royal Ontario Museum have changed its name to Dimetrodon borealis -- marking the first occurrence of a Dimetrodon fossil in Canada.

Related Dinosaur Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...