A new species of two-legged iguanodontian dinosaur has been identified from fossils discovered three decades ago in an opal mine in Australia. A paper describing the new species was published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new herbivorous dinosaur, named Fostoria dhimbangunmal, roamed our planet about 100 million years ago (Cretaceous period).
Its opalized remains were found in the 1980s in an underground opal mine at the ‘Sheepyard’ opal field near the town of Lightning Ridge, central northern New South Wales, Australia.
In total, parts of four skeletons of Fostoria dhimbangunmal were unearthed, ranging from small juveniles to larger animals that might have been 5 m in length.
“We were stunned by the sheer number of bones found,” said Dr. Phil Bell, a paleontologist with the University of New England.
“We initially assumed it was a single skeleton, but when I started looking at some of the bones, I realized that we had four scapulae (shoulder blades) all from different sized animals.”
“There are about 60 opalized bones from one adult dinosaur, including part of the braincase, and bones from at least another three animals.”
It is the first dinosaur ‘herd’ to be discovered in Australia.
“Fostoria dhimbangunmal has given us the most complete opalized dinosaur skeleton in the world,” said Dr. Jenni Brammall, a paleontologist and special projects officer of the Australian Opal Centre.
“Partial skeletons of extinct swimming reptiles have been found at other Australian opal fields, but for opalized dinosaurs we generally have only a single bone or tooth or in rare instances, a few bones.”
“To recover dozens of bones from the one skeleton is a first.”
Phil R. Bell et al. Fostoria dhimbangunmal, gen. et sp. nov., a new iguanodontian (Dinosauria, Ornithopoda) from the mid-Cretaceous of Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online June 3, 2019; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2019.1564757