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AUSTROSAURUS

a herbivorous titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Australia.
image
Pronunciation: OSS-troh-SOR-us
Meaning: Southern lizard
Author/s: Longman (1933)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Queensland, Australia
Chart Position: 130

Austrosaurus mckillopi

Initially known only from vertebrae and ribs found in the Allaru Mudstone near Maxwelton, Austrosaurus was pretty much ignored after its 1933 description until the discovery of two new specimens affectionately known as "Elliot" (after grazier Dave Elliott) and his presumed mate "Mary" (after Dr Mary Wade) side by side in a Winton quarry in 1999. The former spent five years as "Australia's largest dinosaur" until the discovery of two huge titanosaurs ("Cooper" and "George") near Eromanga, southwest Queensland in 2004. But the latter, who was much more petite and ladylike, may represent a different species entirely.

Guestimations pitch Austrosaurus at around four meters tall at shoulder and hip giving it a rather unusually level back. Also unusual is its specific epithet, mckillopi, which looks like a load of letters picked at random from a scrabble set but is actually a nod to H.J. McKillop... who had nothing at all to do with the find, excavation or resulting research. Nor did his brother M.J., though he did stick the bones in the post!

Austrosaurus was discovered by Mr. H.B. Wade (we call him Mr. because we feel he got a bum deal!), a worker at Clutha Station in Queensland where McKillop was manager. The remains were sent to Queensland Museum for study by Heber A. Longman who assigned them tentatively to Cetiosauridae, the "whale lizards", which includes the likes of Patagosaurus and Barapasaurus, and bestowed the McKillops with the naming glory.

Back in the day, Cetiosauridae was a popular drop-off spot for problem sauropods. Thankfully paleontologists have been working to clean it up in recent times and the latest round of research by Ralph Molnar recovered Austrosaurus as one of the wide-bodied, sometimes-armoured sauropods known as titanosaurs instead.

In 1981, Coombs and Molnar assigned QMF 7292 — found by Keith Watts in 1974 and long known as "Clancy" — to Austrosaurus sp., mainly because that was the only Australian sauropod known at the time. But in 2009 Scott Hocknull renamed this specimen Wintonotitan wattsi, which left Austrosaurus so threadbare that many paleontologists are willing to chalk it off as a nomen dubium until better remains present themselves.
Etymology
Austrosaurus is derived from the Latin "auster" (south) and the Greek "sauros" (lizard") referring to its place of discovery on the Southern Hemisphere continent of Australia.
The species epithet, mckillopi, honors H.J. and M.J. McKillop (see main entry).
Discovery
The first fossils of Austrosaurus were discovered in the Allaru Mudstone of the Winton Formation, Clutha Station, 60 km north-west of Maxwelton, Queensland, Australia.
The holotype (QM F2361) consists of three blocks containing primitive and badly weathered vertebrae and rib fragments. A further 5 large blocks and at least 10 smaller ones were later assigned here.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Albian
Age range: 112-99.5 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 15 meters
Est. max. hip height: 4 meters
Est. max. weight: 16 tons
Diet: Herbivore
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Saurischia
Sauropodomorpha
Sauropoda
Titanosauria
Austrosaurus
mckillopi
References
• Tidwell V. and Carpenter K. (2005) "Thunder-Lizards: The Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs".
• Longman H.A. (1933) "A new dinosaur from the Queensland Cretaceous".
• G.S. Paul (2010) "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "AUSTROSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 22nd Oct 2017.
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