The Australotitan cooperensis, or ‘the southern titan’, discovery in southwest Queensland has been officially recognised by scientists as the largest dinosaur in Australia.
The new dinosaur species has been classified within the top 15 largest dinosaurs around the world and is longer than a heavy duty B-double semi-trailer. It is estimated to have towered at 5-6.5 metres at the hip and 25-30 metres in length, which is close to the length of a basketball court.
When the fossilised sauropod skeleton was discovered in Eromanga in 2007, it was nicknamed ‘Cooper’ after Cooper Creek (the ABC reports the skeleton was happened upon by a Queensland couple while mustering cattle in 2006). Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum palaeontologists had finalised their scientific description and official naming of the specimen – Australotitan cooperensis.
“Scientists have been able to publish their findings after a 17-year long joint effort between Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum palaeontologists, fossil preparators, geologists, and countless volunteers,” the premier said.
Researchers undertook a study of the specimen using 3-D technology to scan every bone and compare the dinosaur with other species found near Winton. By analysing the scans, the researchers determined that Cooper was closely related to three other Australian sauropods that lived during the Cretaceous Period about 92-96 million years ago.
Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jon Thompson said Cooper’s 3D scans would be added to the museum’s digital collection.
“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,” Thompson said.
“I am proud that Queensland Museum palaeontologists have been part of many of these amazing discoveries and are leaders in their fields.”
The Australotitan cooperensis find represented the first dinosaur discovery in this particular corner of south-west Queensland. In the early 2000s a number of discoveries of new species and dinosaurs were made in Queensland, marking a period Dr Thompson coined as ‘the beginning of a dinosaur rush’ in the state.
Dinosaur tourism has been a special focus for the Queensland government which has spent millions of dollars partnering with outback tourism operators to encourage jobs as part of its economic recovery plan.
“This discovery and scientific finding will put outback Queensland on the map as one of the world’s leading destinations for dinosaur tourism,” Palaszczuk said.
Arts minister Leeanne Enoch said the find was an opportunity to tell the story when dinosaurs roamed Queensland and the paleontological history of the state.
“These unique outback discoveries are supporting Queensland as we deliver our economic recovery plan creating local jobs in regional and cultural tourism,” she said.
Tourism minister Stirling Hinchcliffe added that the dinosaur attractions were another great reason for tourists to visit outback Queensland.
“The Palaszczuk government has committed close to half a million dollars over three years to deliver a roadmap to grow dinosaur tourism across outback Queensland.
“Eventually, we want to see dinosaur tourism put Queensland on the international paleontology visitor map.”