Paleontologists in Australia have discovered fossil fragments from a new type of dinosaur that walked the Earth during the Early Cretaceous epoch. The new dinosaur belongs to Ornithopoda (ornithopods), a major group of herbivorous bird-hipped dinosaurs.
Dubbed Galleonosaurus dorisae, it inhabited the rift between Australia and Antarctica approximately 125 million years ago (Cretaceous period).
Five fossilized upper jaws of the ancient beast were found at the Flat Rocks locality of the Wonthaggi Formation in a region of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. The discovery confirms that on a global scale, the diversity of these small-bodied dinosaurs had been unusually high in the ancient rift valley that once extended between the spreading continents of Australia and Antarctica.
Galleonosaurus dorisae is a close relative of Diluvicursor pickeringi, another small ornithopod from excavations along the Otway coast to the west of the Gippsland region. However, Galleonosaurus dorisae is about 12 million years older than Diluvicursor pickeringi, showing that the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in the Australian-Antarctic rift had been lengthy.
The researchers also found that the ornithopods from Victoria are closely related to those from Patagonia in Argentina. “We are steadily building a picture of terrestrial dinosaur interchange between the shifting Gondwanan continents of Australia, South America and Antarctica during the Cretaceous period,” said Dr. Matthew Herne, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of New England.
The study was published in the Journal of Paleontology.