Australia gets a new predatory dinosaur

By Katie Cuttriss 8 May 2012
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
Ceratosaurs have been found around the world but were “strangely absent” in Australia before now, say experts.

AN ANKLE BONE discovered in San Remo, 87km southeast of Melbourne, is the first fossil evidence of a major group of meat-eating dinosaurs Down Under.

The 125-million-year-old predator would have weighed around 100kg and grown to around 3.5m in length. Though fossils from animals in the ceratosaur group have been found in North America, North Africa and Europe, none had been discovered in Australia before now. 

Carnivorous dinosaurs

“This discovery joins other widespread carnivorous dinosaurs now known to have lived in Australia – tyrannosaurs, spinosaurids and allosaurs,” says Dr Erich Fitzgerald, palaeontologist and lead researcher behind the discovery at Museum Victoria in Melbourne.

“Until now, this group of dinosaurs has been strangely absent from Australia, but now at last we know they were here.”

Ceratosaurs had blade-like horns on their snouts and pairs of hornlets over their eyes. These carnivores had short, powerfully built forelimbs and walked on their hindlegs, with a long, heavy tail extended to balance the weight of the head.

Millions of fossils

“We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate and very lucky to have found this fossil. The ankle bone or ‘tarsus’ is an extremely informative part of the dinosaur anatomy,” Erich told Australian Geographic.

“It may be the case that of the millions of fossils sitting in the Museum Victoria, many of those might belong to the ceratosaur, we were just lucky to have found the ankle bone as it is the easiest of the dinosaur anatomy to identify.”

After Antarctica, Australia is the continent with the poorest fossil record for dinosaurs, so every discovery has the potential to be ground-breaking, says Erich, who describes it as “one of the last frontiers for dinosaur hunters.”

The research is published this week in the German journal Naturwissenschaffen.