New Dinosaur Unearthed in Australia
Paleontologists in Australia have found a fossilized vertebra from an elaphrosaurine theropod dinosaur that walked the Earth 110 million years ago (Cretaceous period). It is the first elaphrosaur known from the Australian continent.
The newly-discovered dinosaur belongs to Elaphrosaurinae, an enigmatic group of gracile ceratosaurian dinosaurs known from the Late Jurassic period of Africa and Asia, and the early Late Cretaceous period of Argentina.
“Elaphrosaurs were strange looking dinosaurs — they ran low to the ground on two legs, with a slender body, long neck, stubby arms, and a delicate toothless skull,” said Dr. Tim Ziegler, collection manager of vertebrate palaeontology at Museums Victoria.
“They started life eating a wide range of foods, but shed their teeth as they aged. Elaphrosaurs are unusual among theropods because adults had a plant-based diet, rather than hunting prey.”
“Young elaphrosaurs might have hunted the tiny monotremes along with snapping up insects and fruits.”
The nearly complete neck vertebra of the new elaphrosaur was found at the Eric the Red West site — which is part of the Eumeralla Formation — near Cape Otway, Victoria, by Dinosaur Dreaming volunteer Jessica Parker in 2015.
This is the first record of Elaphrosaurinae from Australia and is only the second Cretaceous record of the group worldwide.
In tandem with the recently-described dinosaur Huinculsaurus montesi, the new elaphrosaur extends the record of Elaphrosaurinae by more than 40 million years.
“New discoveries like this elaphrosaur fossil overturn past ideas, and help to interpret discoveries yet to come,” Dr. Ziegler said.
The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal Gondwana Research.
Stephen F. Poropat et al. First elaphrosaurine theropod dinosaur (Ceratosauria: Noasauridae) from Australia – A cervical vertebra from the Early Cretaceous of Victoria. Gondwana Research, published online May 6, 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2020.03.009