It’s been named Australotitan cooperensis, or Cooper for short.
Originally found in 2007 in south-west Queensland, the previously unknown species of dinosaur has only just been presented to the rest of the world by Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum palaeontologists.
”Such big, fragile bones literally took years to prepare and clean,” said Robyn Mackenzie, a field palaeontologist and general manager of the Eromanga Natural History Museum. ”Everyone was learning as we went because no one had dug up bones that big before.”
Pertaining to the titanosaur family, Cooper would likely have measured 25-30m in length, 5-6.5m in height to its hip (but thanks to its ginormous neck could stand at two-storeys tall) and weighed in at 50-70 tonnes depending on the method used. It has been described as being similar in appearance to the Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus dinosaurs and would likely have been closely related to the Australian sauropod family.
Although another slightly larger titanosaur has been discovered further north near Winton in Queensland, those bones were more fragmented and thus more difficult to study. As such, Cooper is the largest ever to be uncovered, which was near Cooper Creek in the Eromanga Basin. This has also been the site of discovery for another fifteen dinosaurs and will likely continue to be a site of discovery long into the future.
Thanks to geological dating it is estimated that Cooper lived in the Cretaceous period around 92m and 96m years ago when Australia was still part of Gondwana.
”At the time the dinosaurs were moving around in this Eromanga area, it was the last of the great inland sea,” said Dr Scott Hocknull, a palaeontologist at the Queensland Museum. Like a billabong, it would have been a place where a number of dinosaurs would have come together.
”We came across a trample zone, which is basically trampled mud that has solidified and hardened into a rock shelf,” said Hocknull. This is corroborated with Cooper’s remains, who appears to have been stepped on.
As a result of the fossilisation process, the bones weigh in excess of a couple of hundred kilos each. Combined with their fragility and the need to share this discovery with others, this has meant that the bones have been digitised and state-of-the-art 3D modelling techniques have been used to help showcase and share these findings with scientists around the world.
The Eromanga Natural History Museum has built a new wing to the museum in order to house a reconstruction of the Australotitan. The fossils will also be on display behind glass.
Currently, the world’s largest known titanosaur was found in South America, name Patagotitan.
The research was published in the journal PeerJ.