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Turkey-sized dinosaur roamed Australia 113 million years ago

Paleontologists working in southeastern Australia have discovered the partial skeleton of a turkey-sized dinosaur that existed in the area some 113 million years ago.

The ancient species is named Diluvicursor pickeringi. It existed during the lower Cretaceous period and sheds new light on the type of ornithopods that roamed the great rift valley that once existed between Australia and Antarctica.

Diluvicursor shows for the first time that there were at least two distinct body-types among closely related ornithopods in this part of Australia,” said lead author Matt Herne, a researcher at the University of Queensland, according to Phys.org. “One was lightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other, Diluvicursor, was more solidly built, with a far shorter tail. Our preliminary reconstruction of the tail musculature of Diluvicursor suggests this dinosaur was a good runner, with powerful leg retracting muscles.”

Scientists first discovered the species in 2005, when they found fossilized tail and foot bones in rocks of the deep sedimentary basins that formed within the Australian-Antarctic rift. The stones, once hidden, were exposed by waves that batter the sea-cliffs along the south coast of Victoria. Though they are not sure, the team thinks the specimen died when it became entangled in a log-jam at the bottom of a river.

The area where the species was first found helps researchers get a better idea of the ancient rift valley ecosystem. Understanding the ecology of the dinosaurs that lived their is important because knowledge of the interplay between anatomy and the environment could open the door for future research.

“Much of the fossil vertebrate material from Eric the Red West has yet to be described, so further dinosaurs and other exciting animals from this site are now anticipated,” added Hern, according to International Business Times.

PeerJ.

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