Elaphrosaur: Rare dinosaur identified in Australia

Rare dinosaur identified in Australia

Australian palaeontologists discover rare 'toothless' dinosaur in Victoria known as an elaphrosaur

Paleontologists writing in Gondwana Research say it is the first evidence of an elaphrosaur reported in Australia and only the second from the Cretaceous period worldwide.

The elaphrosaur was a member of the theropod family of dinosaurs that included all of the predatory species.

Nearly five years later, palaentologists from Swinburne University have determined that the vertebra belongs to the first Australian elaphrosaur, a Cretaceous-era toothless, land-dwelling dinosaur - a far cry from the flying pterosaur it was originally thought to be.

As countries continue to flatten the curve on the novel coronavirus, nations are starting to feel their way gradually out of the limits on daily life imposed by governments to curb the spread, including social distancing and lockdowns. Proposed digs this year have been postponed twice because of the bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephen Poropat, the lead researcher behind the find, at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, said elaphrosaurs were "really rare, " with just three named species from Tanzania, China and Argentina.

Unlike some of their relatives, elaphrosaurs remains are relatively scarce.

Adult elaphrosaurs probably didn't eat much meat, Dr Poropat said.

"The few known skulls of elaphrosaurs show that the youngsters had teeth, but that the adults lost their teeth and replaced them with a horny beak". At around two meters long, it was also rather small for an elaphrosaur. According to the study's authors, it was also comparatively young.

The dinosaur bone was found by volunteer Jessica Parker in 2015 near Cape Otway in Victoria on a site called Eric the Red West, which houses fossils from the Cretaceous age.

The age of the dinosaur raised more eyebrows though because its known relatives discovered in Tanzania and China lived during the end of the Jurassic Period, 160-145 million years ago, whereas the Victorian dinosaur dated from the Early Cretaceous Period nearly 40 million years later.

Identified as the elaphrosaur, whose name means "light-footed lizard", the dinosaur was related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor. By contrast, the new Victorian elaphrosaur dates to nearly 40 million years later, from the Early Cretaceous Period.

"New discoveries like this elaphrosaur fossil overturn past ideas, and help to interpret discoveries yet to come", said Ziegler.

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