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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dinosaur Discovery Could Hold Key to Sauropods Diet

Dinosaur discovery in Winton could hold key to sauropods diet

WED AT 12:55AM

Source: ABC

The almost-complete sauropod skeleton was found on a sheep station near WintonABC NEWS

Scientists are hopeful the discovery of a fossilised dinosaur skeleton in outback Queensland will shed light on what was on the menu around 95 million years ago.

The most complete sauropod skeleton ever found in the southern hemisphere is being dug up at a sheep station near Winton, in western Queensland.

Third-generation grazier and field palaeontologist David Elliott said his son stumbled across the bones while mustering sheep two years ago.

Preserved in a layer of iron stone, the dinosaur's stomach contents were also found.

International sauropod expert Paul Upchurch said it was an extremely rare find.

"In fact I can't think of a single valid example for sauropod dinosaur," he said.

"If horsetails [a type of reed] are confirmed as being present as genuine stomach contents, then this gives us a glimpse of what the animals were eating."

PHOTO The digging site on the property, which will be returned to in August to resume more bones.ABC NEWS: NICOLE BOND

Sauropods were enormous herbivores and the species described around Winton lived in the cretaceous period.

They are the largest animals to have walked the earth with length of up to 33 metres and a height of 18 metres.

When they died their corpses were subjected to scavenging and their bones scattered, which is what makes an articulated skeleton unusual.

Mr Elliott's son Bob said he first spotted just a few small bones on the ground at the start, about 100 metres away from a site where another dinosaur had been found four years prior.

"We dug there [at the original site] first, but we didn't find a lot there, so we decided to dig at my site," Bob Elliott said.

"I'm just ecstatic," he said.

PHOTO Bob Elliott discovered the bones two years ago while mustering sheep.ABC NEWS: NICOLE BOND

The dinosaur will be called Judy, after Bob's mother and Mr Elliott's wife.

"She's been coordinating the digs now for like 10 years or more," Mr Elliott said.

"Without her we wouldn't have digs, so it was a unanimous decision."

When asked what Judy thought of that, David replied: "I've kept my head down."

Swinburne University of Technology palaeontologist Stephen Poropat took part in the dig with the Elliot family and volunteers, who are due to return to the site in August to uncover more.

He said they would compare the specimen to others, but is confident it died while young.

It is not confirmed what type of the sauropod family the dinosaur was, but Dr Poropat said he believed it is not a new species.

PHOTO Fossilised bones of sauropod's neck meeting its shoulder at the dig site.ABC NEWS: NICOLE BOND

"As far as sauropods go in the Winton area it's not that big," he said.

"It's probably about the third-smallest actually."

The family hope to unearth the hindquarters and tail when the dig resumes in August.

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