The partial skeleton of a turkey-sized herbivorous dinosaur species has just been discovered, stuck in a 113-million-year-old rock formation in southeastern Australia near Cape Otway.
The newly discovered fossilized bones of the tail and paws give us a new insight into the diversity of small bipedal herbivorous dinosaurs known as ornithopods, which roamed the vast valley that once existed between Australia and Antarctica. Rocks from deep Lower Cretaceous sedimentary basins, formed in the Southern Antarctic rift, are now exposed as rocky platforms along the south coast of Victoria.
The new dinosaur has been named Diluvicursor Pickeringi.
“The Diluvicursor fossil shows for the first time that there were at least two distinct body types among the same-family of ornithopods in this part of Australia,” notes Matt Herne, lead author of this new study.
“One was slightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other, the Diluvicursor, was more solidly built with a much shorter tail. Our preliminary reconstruction of Diluvicursor’s tail musculature also suggests that this dinosaur was a good runner, with powerful retracting muscles,” the researcher continues.
“Understanding the natural environment of these dinosaurs — what they ate, how they moved, where they moved — is an exciting challenge,” she added.
The name of the species honors the late David Pickering, former director of the Victoria Museum Collection. He made a significant contribution to Australian paleontology in the laboratory and in the field, and has enabled countless paleontology students and researchers to achieve their goals. He died a little over a year ago, on Christmas Eve in 2016.
Ornithopods were the equivalent in dinosaurs of today’s cattle and deer. Their horny beaks were used to graze the vegetation they then grinded using molars. They flourished between 229 and 65.5 million years ago, one of the most important reigns on the planet