New Dinosaur Species Discovered In The Australian Outback

We used to think we knew everything there is to know about dinosaurs, but scientists discover new evidence and fossils constantly. All which prove to us modern humans that we don’t know a lot more than we do know. Case in point: According to a report in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (via Gizmodo), paleontologists in Australia have identified a heretofore unknown plant-eating dinosaur, which lived in the the mid-Cretaceous period. Amazingly enough, the scientists found these fossilized bones of this species preserved in opal. Which is fitting, as they shine in hues of blue and green.

New Dinosaur Species Discovered In The Australian Outback_1
Illustration: James Kuether

The fossils of the four specimens were found in a small town in the Australian Outback called Lightning Ridge, which sounds like the name of a TV series about a town where weird occurrences take place. Paleontologists actually recovered the opal-encrusted fossils way back in 1984, after  an opal miner named Robert Foster found them in his mines. He then donated these fossils first to the Australian Museum in Sydney, where they were displayed for over three decades.

But when the Foster family donated the fossils to the Australian Opal Centre, researchers there suspected there was more to these fossils than originally thought. And they were right; they turned out to be the fossils of a previously unknown species. And one which would eventually evolve in the more well known duckbilled hadrosaurs which were around at the end of the dinosaur age.

Named for the man who discovered them, Fostoria is now the earliest known iguanodontian dinosaur to have ever been found in Australia. This species dates back to about 100 million years ago. The region in New South Wales where they were discovered is as very barren and look exactly like what springs to mind when someones says “Australian Outback,” but in the Cretaceous period it looked very different. Back then, it was the home to rivers and huge swaths of vegetation. But it begs the question, just how many other unknown breeds of dinosaurs might still be out there waiting to be discovered?

Image: Universal Studios

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