Scientists on Monday announced they have identified a new species of dinosaur that is the largest ever found in Australia.
The giant sauropod was officially named the Australotitan cooperensis, or “the southern titan” by researchers in Eromanga, Queensland, according to a study published in the journal PeerJ. The second part of its name, cooperensis, refers to the nearby Cooper Creek in western Queensland where the fossils were found in 2007.
Experts say the dinosaur was estimated to have weighed about 70 tons, measured 21 feet tall, and extended to about the length of a basketball court.
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“The exciting thing for us is we can put our first hat in the ring for the world’s largest dinosaurs. It’s not the largest in the world, but it’s certainly top 10,” said Scott Hocknull, a Queensland Museum paleontologist and a co-author of the study, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The titanosaur – like the brachiosaurus – was part of a group called sauropods, which were plant-eating dinosaurs known for their size. They were estimated to have lived more than 90 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period.
Over the past decade, paleontologists had worked to identify the dinosaur – comparing scans of the bones with those from existing species.
“To make sure Australotitan was a different species, we needed to compare its bones to the bones of other species from Queensland and globally. This was a very long and painstaking task,” Hocknull said.
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The study found that Australotitan was closely related to three other species of Australian sauropods – the Wintonotitan, Diamantinasaurus, and Savannasaurus.
“We compared the three species found to the north, near Winton, to our new Eromanga giant and it looks like Australia’s largest dinosaurs were all part of one big happy family,” added Hocknull.
The dinosaur bones were first found in 2007 on a family farm near Eromanga, Queensland.
Hocknull said discoveries like this were “just the tip of the iceberg.”
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“Our ultimate goal is to find the evidence that tells the changing story of Queensland, hundreds of millions of years in the making. A grand story all scientists, museums, and tourists can get behind,” he added.