Meet Australia’s largest dino, Australotitan cooperensis

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An illustration of Australotitan cooperensis — the southern titan — is Australia’s largest dinosaur and among the world’s top 15 largest dinosaurs. media_cameraAn illustration of Australotitan cooperensis — the southern titan — is Australia’s largest dinosaur and among the world’s top 15 largest dinosaurs.

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Australia’s largest dinosaur has just stomped into the record books.

Standing 6.5m tall and up to 30m long, the plant-eating creature – nicknamed “Cooper” after it was discovered near Cooper Creek in southwest Queensland – is among the top 10-15 largest dinosaurs that ever roamed Earth.

Palaeontologists* say Australotitan cooperensis – meaning “the southern titan from the Cooper” – was as long as a basketball court and taller than a B-double truck.

“We’re not world-beaters just yet, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be,” Queensland Museum palaeontologist Dr Scott Hocknull said.

media_cameraAn illustration of Australotitan cooperensis shows how big it is compared with a standard earth digger.

A piece of “Cooper” was first discovered in 2004 by 14-year-old Sandy Mackenzie on his family’s sheep and cattle property near the town of Eromanga.

What Sandy thought was a piece of rock was later identified by the Queensland Museum as fossilised remains of a 95 million-year-old plant-eating dinosaur.

Qld teenager Sandy Mackenzie holding originally found fossil bone of Titanosaur dinosaur, next to larger fossil bone discovered by archaeologist after dig on his parents sheep and cattle property near Eromanga Qld 03 May 2007. /Fossils media_cameraSandy Mackenzie holds the small fossil he found next to a larger fossilised bone discovered by scientists during a dig on his family’s sheep and cattle property near Eromanga in Queensland. Picture: Rob MacColl

Two year’s after Sandy’s discovery, his mother, Robyn, came across the first bone of the new species.

“My husband, Stuart, actually always had a belief that there were dinosaurs out on our property,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“It was just an amazing point in time when you can go back and physically hold a piece of dinosaur bone in your hand.”

media_cameraCooper, Allie and Darcy Edwards from Eromanga State School size up against a replica of Cooper’s rear leg at the Eromanga Natural History Museum. Picture: Steve Young

About 17 years of subsequent* research by Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum led to “Cooper” officially being declared our biggest Aussie dino and described this week in international science journal PeerJ.

Dr Hocknull said 3D printing and new digital technology were used to identify “Cooper”.

“We used digital technology to scan each bone and compare those bones with every species of dinosaur in the world to ensure it was a new species, ” he said.

media_cameraDr Scott Hocknull with a 3D reconstruction of Cooper’s humerus (arm) bone. Picture: Rochelle Lawrence

Dr Hocknull said “Cooper” was one of about 15 unique* species of dinosaur discovered in Australia to date, and by far the biggest.

“We have had relatively large dinosaurs before,” he said. “The ones up at Winton* maybe get up to 16-17m long, but to have something get up to maybe 30m long, that’s the big leagues.

“We’re only just starting to find these big guys. It’s likely that we will find larger species as we uncover more.”

GLOSSARY

palaeontologists: scientists who study fossils subsequent: later, happening after unique: one of a kind Winton: a town in outback Queensland that is known for its dinosaur discoveries

EXTRA READING

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World-first fossil find of dino sitting on eggs

Giant meat-eating dinosaur roamed Australia

Rare dinosaur fossil found in Australia

Entire herd of dinosaurs found in Australia

QUICK QUIZ

    What nickname is Australotitan cooperensis known by? What does Australotitan cooperensis mean? What have the height and length of this dinosaur been compared to? Who first found a piece of the dinosaur in 2004? How many unique species of dinosaur have been found in Australia to date?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Dinosaur Puzzle
On a blank piece of A3 or A4 cardboard, draw an outline of the “Cooper” dinosaur. Then divide this outline into pieces to create a jigsaw of the dinosaur shape. The smaller your puzzle pieces the harder it will be. Put your puzzle into a small bag and let some classmates and maybe junior classes have a go at solving your jigsaw. Have a go putting the jigsaw puzzle together of another of your classmates.

Dino puzzle for kids news media_cameraCreate a dinosaur puzzle like this one.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts, Personal and social

2. Extension
What clues do you think led Stuart, one of the property’s owners, to believe that dinosaurs existed on the land?

What do you think they should do to celebrate or commemorate this finding on their property?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Cooper the Plant Eating Dinosaur
Write a short narrative to describe a day in the life of Cooper. You can choose your setting to be 95 million years ago, when Cooper was believed to have been alive, or you can bring him back to the sheep and cattle property now.

Include the 5 Ws of who, what, where, when and why.

Challenge yourself to start with a power opener somewhere in your story – A power opener starts a sentence with a verb (a doing word), a connective, or an adverb (describe how the verb is being performed).

When you have finished, read your story out loud to make sure it make sense. Then go through and highlight all your openers. Are any of them power openers?

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