The remains of an entire herd* of 100-million-year-old dinosaurs has been discovered in Australia.
The herd was found in the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge in outback NSW, together with a new species and the world’s most complete opalised* dinosaur.
The discoveries were announced on Monday night in the US-based Journal of Vertebrate* Paleontology* by a team of Australian scientists led by Phil Bell of the University of New England, Armidale.
Dr Bell said he was “stunned” by the number of bones found in the underground opal mine.
“We initially assumed it was a single skeleton, but when I started looking at some of the bones I realised we had four scapulae (shoulder blades) all from different sized animals,” he said.
“There are about 60 opalised bones from one adult dinosaur, including part of the braincase*, and bones from at least another three animals.”
The opalised fossils were first discovered in 1984 by opal miner Robert Foster. He found them 10m underground in an opal field called “the Sheepyard”, but it wasn’t until 2015, when they were donated to the Australian Opal Centre by Foster’s children, Gregory and Joanne, that scientists began to study them.
The new dinosaur has been named Fostoria dhimbangunmal (pronounced bim-baan goon-mal), in Foster’s honour, and the new species has been named dhimbangunmal, meaning “sheep yard” in the local Yawaalaraay Aboriginal language.
Parts of four Fostoria skeletons were dug up, ranging from small infants to adults that might have been 5m long, leading palaeontologists* to conclude* they were part of a small herd.
Jenni Brammall, palaeontologist and special projects officer of the Australian Opal Centre, described Fostoria as the most complete opalised dinosaur skeleton in the world.
“Partial skeletons of extinct swimming reptiles have been found at other Australian opal fields but for opalised dinosaurs we generally have only a single bone or tooth or, in rare instances, a few bones. To recover dozens of bones from the one skeleton is a first.”
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She said Fostoria was a plant-eating iguanodontian dinosaur closely related to Muttaburrasaurus discovered in 1980. The discovery comes on the back of the discovery of a small plant-eating dinosaur also from Lightning Ridge, Weewarrasaurus pobeni, which was named by Dr Bell and colleagues late last year.
“The rate of discovery is astounding. On average there’s at least one new dinosaur discovered around the world every week,” Dr Bell said. ‘It’s an exciting time for dinosaur lovers everywhere.”
- herd: large group of animals
- opalised: something that’s changed into the gemstone opal, especially fossils
- vertebrate: an animal with a backbone
- paleontology: science concerned with fossil animals and plants
- braincase: the cranium bone which covers the brain
- palaeontologists: expert who studies fossil animals and plants
- conclude: arrive at a decision after careful thinking and study
- In which town was the herd of dinosaurs discovered?
- How many opalised bones were from one adult dinosaur?
- When where they first discovered?
- What were the names Fostoria dhimbangunmal used in honour of?
- What did the dinosaur herd eat?
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1. Dinosaur Fossils
Work with a partner and list some of the important information that these opalised dinosaur fossils can give scientists.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, History, Personal and Social
Jenni Brammall states: “On average there’s at least one new dinosaur discovered around the world every week.”. Why do you think this is the case?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science, Critical and Creative Thinking
Vinny Vocabulary thinks there are too many ‘said’ words being used. Can you find them all and see if you can replace them with better more specific words about how the dialogue is being expressed.
After you have finished, see if you can make a synonym cloud for said. Attached is a cloud example that you can use to fill it with words to replace ‘said’.
Add it to your VCOP support book to use as a helpful tool when you are writing your stories.
HAVE YOUR SAY: If you could name a dinosaur after yourself, what would the name be?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.