Australia, a continent rife with diverse wildlife, was once home to an entirely new species of sauropod, which are plant-eating dinosaurs.
A series of fossils found outside the Australian town of Winton in 2005 revealed one of the most complete sauropod skeletons found in this country, reported The Verge. The ancient reptile was named Savannasaurus elliottorum after the grassy region where it was found along with the family who discovered it.
Analysis of the skeleton indicated the dinosaur was about 50 feet long with a long neck, and wide, round body and weighed around 40,000 pounds. There were no traces of fossilized dung or teeth so the research team was unable to ascertain the diet of the dinosaur.
However, the scientists felt it likely grew to this size due to a low-quality vegetarian diet, which could have contributed to the creature’s wide middle, according to The Verge.
Also, the researchers determined the Savannasaurus lived on the continent 95 million to 98 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.
Most dinosaur discoveries in Australia have been from the early to middle Cretaceous period around 95 to 125 million years ago, explained Business Insider.
It’s still unknown how this dinosaur wound up in this country because fossils surfacing there are exceedingly rare, but the team felt a combination of global climate change and continent arrangements could have helped this gigantic creature appear in Australia.
“Australia and South America were connected to Antarctica throughout much of the Cretaceous,”
Said University College London paleobiology professor and one of the authors of this study, Paul Upchurch, Ph.D., in a statement.
“Ninety-five million years ago, at the time that Savannasaurus was alive, global average temperatures were warmer than they are today. However, it was quite cool at the poles at certain times, which seems to have restricted the movement of sauropods at polar latitudes. We suspect that the ancestor of Savannasaurus was from South America, but that it could not and did not enter Australia until approximately 105 million years ago. At this time global average temperatures increased allowing sauropods to traverse landmasses at polar latitudes,” he added.
Ultimately, this discovery could help scientists understand how these animals migrated to other parts of the world.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.