Dino-mite discovery: Aussie farmer’s find could rewrite how dinosaurs spread around the world

The discovery sheds new light on how dinosaurs travelled the world. © David Mercado
The discovery of a giant dino skeleton by a farmer in Australia has led to new theories as to how and why they spread around the world. Researchers have theorized that the 15-meter-long sauropod made its way to Australia thanks to global warming.

Savannasaurus elliottorum, named after David Elliott, the sheep farmer who discovered its remains, was unearthed in 2005 in Winton, Queensland, but has taken ten years to study, with the latest research published this week in Scientific Reports.

“I was nearly home with the mob – only about a kilometer from the yards – when I spotted a small pile of fossil bone fragments on the ground,” Elliott told Australian Geographic in describing his discovery. A dinosaur enthusiast himself, Elliott soon enlisted scientists from Queensland University to help him excavate 17 pallets worth of bones.

The dinosaur was similar to the brontosaurus with a long neck and four pillar-like legs, belonging to a subgroup of sauropods known as titanosaurs, which are believed to have originated in South America. Another sauropod, Diamantinasaurus, was also found alongside the Savannasaurus.

Global warming allowed the species to cross Antarctica to Australia “via a set of suitable habitats,” according to the research, which suggests the species made their journey between 100 and 105 million years ago, when the crossing was possible due to both a rise in temperatures and the positioning of the landmasses.

“We suspect that the ancestor of Savannasaurus was from South America, but that it could not and did not enter Australia until approximately 105 million years ago. At this time global average temperatures increased allowing sauropods to traverse landmasses at polar latitudes.” according to Professor Paul Upchurch, who was involved in the research.

John Long, a paleontologist from Flinders University, questioned the global warming theory, however, claiming that more discoveries would be needed to corroborate it.

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Speaking to The Guardian, he said “Based on that, we could make the prediction that we would find more exciting dinosaurs that occur in South America. Like, for example, the horned carnotaurus – it’s a theropod meat-eating dinosaur with horns on its head.”