Two Tonnes of Dinosaur Bones likely to yield a new Species

Australian palaeontologists are confident that two tonnes of recently excavated dinosaur bones may lead to the identification of a new species of Australian dinosaur.  Australia is proving to be one of the “hot-spots” for new dinosaur discoveries with 2008 being a particularly fruitful year for the excavation of dinosaur fossils from this vast country – as predicted in Everything Dinosaur’s 2008 palaeontology prediction list for 2008.

To view the article on Everything Dinosaur predictions: New Year Predictions for 2008

A recent expedition to a remote dig site in the west of Queensland led to the discovery of the new fossils, dated to the mid Cretaceous period.  The area the team were exploring has proved to be a successful dinosaur hunting ground in the past with the fossilised remains of a large Sauropod dinosaur having been found.

Amateur paleontologist David Elliott, from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Institute which organised the expedition, said the new bones were considered as too small to belong to a Sauropod (large long-necked dinosaur).

He went onto comment on the chances of these fossils representing a species new to science as being “very, very likely simply because of the rarity of Australian dinosaurs”.

“There is very little in the way of Australian dinosaurs that have been scientifically described and because of the isolation of Australia… most Australian fauna are very different to others around the world,” he added.

For much of pre-history the land masses that were to make up the southern continents were joined together to form a single super-continent called Gondwanaland.  By the middle of the Cretaceous period this land mass had begun to break up.  South America, India and Africa were separated and Australia was joined to Antarctica by a series of tenuous and temporary land bridges that may have been severed during periods of rising sea levels, isolating the fauna and flora of Australia.  The formation of the South-east Indian ridge (a mid-ocean spreading ridge, formed at the edge of a tectonic plate), began the opening up of a sea channel between Australia and Antarctica.  Australia was slowly pushed northwards as new ocean floor was created by undersea volcanic activity and this floor spread out on either side of the ridge.

Australia is still continuing its northward progress today, and in millions of years time will collide with New Guinea.  The isolating of Australia during the mid Cretaceous permitted many unique types of dinosaurs and other animals to evolve.

It is for this reason that the Australian scientists are confident that the new fossils will prove to be a new species.  The expedition leaders estimate that there is a further eight months preparation work in the laboratory ahead of them before they can come to a clear conclusion as to just what they have dug up.

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