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Amazing Discovery: New Species of Cretaceous Dinosaur Found in Australia

Oct 21, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Paleontologists have identified a new species of medium-sized titanosaur using fossilized bone fragments found in western Queensland, Australia in 2005.

Their discovery, described in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, was made after almost ten years of carefully removing the hard siltstone concretion encasing the bones. The fossilized remains were first discovered by David Elliott, co-founder of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum (AAOD), while he was herding sheep on his motorbike in early 2005. Elliot spotted a small pile of bones that appears to be two pieces of small limb bone that probably belong to a meat-eating theropod dinosaur. However, when Elliot came back to analyze the bone with his wife Judy, the found out that the two pieces of bone perfectly fit together, revealing a complete toe bone of plant-eating sauropod.

Later that year, AAOD museum, staffs and volunteers from AAOD museum and Queensland Museum excavated the site where the Elliots found the toe bone. The team recovered 17 pallets of bones encased in a rock. The paleontologists on the site nicknamed the potentially new species of dinosaur "Wade", in honor of prominent Australian paleontologists and close friend of the Elliots, Dr. Mary Wade.

"Before today we have only been able to refer to this dinosaur by its nickname," said Dr Stephen Poropat, Research Associate at the AAOD Museum and lead author of the study, in a press release. "Now that our study is published we can refer to Wade by its formal name, Savannasaurus elliottorum,"

The name of the dinosaur was made as reference to the savannah country of western Queensland, where the fossils were found, and in honor of the Elliots, who first discovered the remains. Savannasaurus elliottorum was a medium-sized titanosaur, about the half the length of basketball court. The newly discovered species was characterized by its long neck and relatively short tail. Their hips were at least one meter wide and a huge barrel-like rib cage. The somewhat hippopotamus-like Diamantinasaurus lived alongside two other type of sauropod and several other dinosaurs, including ornithopods, armoured ankylosaurs and Australovenator.

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