The giant of the Outback has been identified as a new dinosaur genus and species – Australotitan cooperensis, the Southern titan! This dinosaur is a new gigantic titanosaur, a plant-eating dinosaur group that represent the largest animals that walked on earth. It reached a similar size to the world’s dinosaur giants found in South America, marking Australia’s first entry into the world’s dinosaur giants.
The dinosaur that changed the lives of an outback Queensland grazing family forever, has been officially named as Australotitan cooperensis – a previously unknown species of dinosaur that has been confirmed as setting a new record as Australia’s largest dinosaur and one of the largest in the world.
Australotitan, “the southern titan”, was first discovered in 2007 east of Cooper Creek, South West Queensland, Australia, and has today been scientifically described and named by the Eromanga Natural History Museum and Queensland Museum palaeontologists at a special global announcement at the Eromanga Natural History Museum in Outback Queensland.
Australotitan, who was originally nicknamed “Cooper”, represents the largest species of dinosaur ever found in Australia and is estimated to have reached a height of 5-6.5 metres at the hip and 25-30 metres in length, making it as long as a basketball court and as tall as a two storey building.
“The discovery of Australia’s largest dinosaur was totally unexpected and, as it has turned out, was just the tip of the iceberg of numerous significant dinosaur discoveries that has come since and continue to be made,” Eromanga Natural History Museum and field palaeontologist Robyn Mackenzie said.
“These dinosaur discoveries have opened a whole new world, not just to our family, but to people throughout Australia”. It has been the most enriching journey.”
Eromanga’s dinosaur journey started in 2004 when Robyn’s son Sandy discovered a memorable “rock”. That rock confirmed Robyn’s husband Stuart’s lifelong belief that there were dinosaur bones on the family property and led to the couple founding the Outback Gondwana Foundation Limited and later the Eromanga Natural History Museum. The museums function is to hold the bones within context of the discoveries, in a regional museum collection meeting international standards.
Robyn Mackenzie said the discovery represented a new record of dinosaurs from a new location in Australia, South West Queensland. It is also a new fossil record from Australia of the worlds dinosaur giants.
“This new titanosaurian is the largest dinosaur from Australia represented by osteological remains. It is the first Australian dinosaur to be able to join the elite group of dinosaur giants that until now have mostly been found in South America,” she said.
“These are the largest dinosaurs that ever walked on earth and based on the preserved limb size comparisons, this new titnaosaur is estimated to be in the top five largest in the world. The scientific naming of this new dinosaur, formalises many years of research and from a community level, rewards the many volunteers, community members and our Founding Dig Sponsor Santos, Eromanga, Earthmoving, Tom and Janine Meakin and IOR who have contributed towards the discovery of the massive dinosaur. Palaeo Tourism has been huge globally so we’re expecting a lot of international interest when our borders re-open, and until then hope that Australians will come and see for themselves these incredible finds from our own backyard.”
Australotitan isn’t the only dinosaur bones that have been found on the Eromanga property. Over the past 12 years many other Eromanga dinosaurs have been unearthed – earlier this month during an Eromanga Natural History Museum dig, the team uncovered dozens of dinosaur bones from another new Eromanga dinosaur. The lengthy process of preparation and research will determine if it too may belong to yet another new species.
The scientific publication marks a seventeen-year long journey by the Eromanga Natural History Museum staff and Queensland Museum palaeontologists, fossil preparators, geologists, and countless volunteers.
Queensland Museum palaeontologist Dr Hocknull said Australotitan added to the growing list of uniquely Australian dinosaur species discovered in Outback Queensland, and just as importantly showcased a totally new area for dinosaur discovery in Australia.
Dinosaur bones are enormous, heavy and fragile, and are kept in museums 100s-1000s of kilometres apart, making scientific study very difficult. For the first time, the team used new digital technology to 3-D scan each bone of Australotitan and compare them to the bones of its closest relatives.
“The 3-D scans we created allowed me to carry around 1000s of kilos dinosaur bones in a 7kg laptop. Better yet, we can now share these scans and knowledge online with the world,” Dr Hocknull said.
“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.”
The study found that Australotitan was closely related to three other Australian sauropods that lived during the Cretaceous Period (92-96 million years ago).
Dr Hocknull said along with the description of Australotitan, the study has also revealed a swathe of new discoveries in the area awaiting full scientific study.
“Over the last 17 years numerous dinosaur skeletons including one with an almost complete tail. The discovery of a rock-shelf, almost 100 m long, represents a sauropod pathway, where the dinosaurs walked along trampling mud and bones into the soft ground,” he said.
“Discoveries like this are just the tip of the iceberg. 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.”
Queensland Museum Network chief executive officer Dr Jim Thompson said this represented the first dinosaur discovery in this corner of south-west Queensland.
“In the early 2000s Australia was at the beginning of a dinosaur-rush, with a number of significant new species of dinosaurs and megafauna being discovered in the past 20 years. Australia is one of the last frontiers for dinosaur discovery and Queensland is quickly cementing itself as the palaeo-capital of the nation – there is still plenty more to discover,” Dr Thompson said.
“I am proud that Queensland Museum palaeontologists have been part of many of these amazing discoveries and are leaders in their fields.” Minister for Arts Leeanne Enoch said the exciting new discovery helps to cement Queensland as Australia’s dinosaur capital.
“Discoveries like Australotitan tell the story of a time when dinosaurs roamed Queensland,” Minister Enoch said.
“Queensland Museum experts have been on the ground, sharing their knowledge with regional museums and helping to preserve and better understand the diverse paleontological history of our state.
“These unique outback discoveries are supporting Queensland as we deliver our economic recovery plan creating local jobs in regional and cultural tourism.”
The fossil remains of Australotitan cooperensis are located in the Eromanga Natural History Museum fossil collection and now available for the public to view and researchers to do further study.
The new paper will be published tonight in the international journal Peer J.
Location: 1 Dinosaur Drive, Eromanga, QLD Australia 4480
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Accommodation: Coopers Country Lodge – 4 Star accommodation (book via Museum website)
Kylie Edwards @ Cardinal Spin M: 0422 233 996 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Australotitan cooperensis Hocknull et al., 2021 (“Cooper” – Australia’s largest dinosaur)
Name: Australotitan cooperensis
Pronounced: Australo – titan ; cooper – en – sis
Meaning: Southern Titan from the Cooper (Cooper Creek)
Found: West of Eromanga, South-west Queensland, Australia
Age: Approximately 92-96 million years ago. Cretaceous Period, Cenomanian – ?Turonian Epoch.
Size: Based on the prepared remains of Australotitan cooperensis, it’s estimated that the species could reach 25-30 metres long and 5-6.5 metres high (ground to hip).
Type: Giant titanosaurian sauropod (long-necked, plant-eating sauropod)
Formation: Winton Formation, Eromanga Basin.
Sauropod dinosaurs were herbivores and had very long necks, long tails, small heads and four thick, pillar-like legs. They are known for their enormous size and includes some of the largest animals to ever have lived on land.
The name Sauropoda was coined by OC Marsh in 1878 and is derived from the Greek meaning ‘Lizard Foot’
They are one of the most recognisable groups of dinosaurs in the world.
Fast facts about Australotitan
·Largest skeletal remains of a dinosaur ever to be discovered in Australia.
·Based on preserved limb measurements, Australotitan is estimated to be in the top 5 largest titanosaurian dinosaurs world-wide.
·Australotitan is a titanosaurian sauropod. Titanosaurians are one of the last remaining sauropod groups in the Cretaceous Period and also were the largest ever land-dwelling animals.
·Fossils of Australotitan was found on a tributary of the famous inland river system, Cooper Creek in the Cooper/Eromanga Basin and this is where the nickname came from
·Titanosaurians have been found across the globe, however, little is known of the Australian dinosaur species world.
·Australotitan comes from the Winton Formation, one of the largest geological layers in Australia from the time of the dinosaurs.
·Australotitan is closely related to other sauropod species found in the Winton Formation, Diamantinasaurus, Wintonotitan and Savannasaurus.
·Determining the mass of Australotitan is very difficult. Using the Titanosaur Mass estimator (Campione & Evans 2012) it is estimated it weighed possibly as much as 67,000 kg.