dinosaur museum

April 2019 Newsletter

FROM THE EDUCATION DESK

Interesting facts for this month: April 1, 1970 cigarette advertising was banned…April 3, 1860 the Pony Express Service started…April 4, 1906 Mount Vesuvius erupted.

FYI: Galleonosaurus dorisae…A dinosaur from “a lost world”

During the Early Cretaceous period, as the supercontinent Gondwana was slowly drifting apart, an 1,800 mile rift valley stood between Australia and Antarctica. The region teemed with life and an important fossil discovery is helping scientists learn about a dinosaur that once roamed throughout the area. Researchers have analyzed five fossilized upper jaw bones found in Australia’s Gippsland Basin, along the coast of Victoria. The 125 million year old bones belong to a new species of ornithopod, a family of herbivorous dinosaurs characterized by their bird-like bipedal stance. The size of the jaw bones indicate that this new species was relatively small about the size of a wallaby. The name was inspired by the shape of the jaw, which resembles a galleon ship. Very importantly, the fossil group included specimens from individuals ranging in age from young to mature, marking “the first time an age range has been identified from the jaws of an Australian dinosaur; says Matthew Herne, lead study author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of New England.

Galleonosaurus dorisae. Image credit: James Kuether.

The discovery of these fossils is exciting to researchers because it offers a glimpse into life in the rift valley…”a lost world”, as Herne says. Millions of years ago, part of the rift was located within the Arctic Circle, but the climate was relatively warm, allowing plants and animals to thrive there. Small dinosaurs, turtles, small mammals, small birds, flying reptiles, lungfish and plesiosaurs, all flourished in the rift environment. Ferns and horsetails along with some pines and early flowering plants were also present.

The rift was split by the Southern Ocean but traces of some of the species that once lived there have been preserved thanks to miles of once active volcanoes along the rift. Sediments from these volcanoes were carried down huge rivers, where dinosaur bones and fallen foliage were mixed in creating sedimentary basins that show life on Earth at that time.

A study has revealed that Galleonosaurus was closely related to ornithopods from Patagonia in South America, which suggests that a land bridge must have connected South America and Australia, via Antarctica. With new technologies, scientists are able to shine light on what dinosaurs ate, how they moved and coexisted.

Education Director
Geri LeBold

 

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