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Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaurs

In a dazzling discovery, fossils come from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town Lightning Ridge, to…

In a dazzling discovery, fossils come from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town Lightning Ridge, to the newly named dinosaur Weewarrasaurus pobeni . The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, went on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.

A type of dinosaur called an ornitopod, Weewarrasaurus may have been moved in crews or small groups for protection. The fossil contributes to increasing evidence that the southern hemisphere’s planting fauna consisted of quite different beings than the American American warlike growths, such as the many horny heels of Triceratops and the accused hawk roses.

But perhaps the most striking with this fossil description today in a paper published in the newspaper PeerJ &#821

1; is that it is made of opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.

Weewarrasaurus right käke shows the rainbow shades of opal in the fossil.

“As a paleontologist, I’m really interested in the anatomy and in this case the teeth,” said lead writer Phil Bell at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales.

“But when you work in Lightning Ridge,” Bell says, “you can not ignore the fact that some of these things are preserved in spectacular opal which are all the colors of the rainbow.”

Like No Place on Earth

Hundreds of small mines mark this dry landscape 450 miles northwest of Sydney. But dinosaur fossils are only rarely found here, so Bell says it’s miraculous to have discovered a fossilized jaw with teeth. (See pictures of an opal mining community living underground in southern Australia.)

“It’s a truly unique area,” he adds. “There is no place in the world like this one, where you have dinosaurs preserved in beautiful opal.” This almost 100 million year old example is chopped from the light colored gemstone, formed during the course of the eunces from the concentration of silica rich underground solutions.

The fossil was found in 2013 by Adelaide-based opalist Mike Poben, for which the new species was named. He had bought a bag of coarse opal from miners and picked it for fossils, as he always does. An unusual piece fell into the eye.

“A voice on the back of my head said teeth,” he reminds. “I thought, oh my God, if I have teeth here, then it’s a jawbone.”

The Pob held on the potential dental test and sent the remaining opal with a so-called runner whose job it was to drive around Lightning Ridge trying to find a buyer. After nine days, the runner returned the seller unsold, so Poben looked on the content.

“I found another piece of bone, less with sockets, turned it over and then things began to explode in my head,” he says. “When I dressed up the pieces, I realized I had two pieces from the same jaw.” Bell, the paleontologist who would continue to formally describe the dinosaur, says that his own jaw dropped the first time he saw the very valuable fossil with his excellent teeth in 2014. The Pob then donated the fossil to the Australian Opal Center, a Lightning Ridge Museum with the world’s largest collection of fossilized fossils.

The southern supercontinent dinosaurs

Weewarrasaurus adds a fast growing roast of dinosaurs from the eastern southern southern continent of Gondwana. While there are fewer than 20 named Australian dinosaurs, this is the fourth species described since 2015, including a sauropod, Savannasaurus; an ankylosaur, Kunbarrasaurus; and another small ornitopod, Diluvicursor .

What today is a dry, dusty environment with a bushy vegetation could not have been more different at that time Weewarrasaurus lived there. During the middle of the Cretaceous, Lightning Ridge was a lush area of ​​lakes and streams on the edge of the prehistoric Eromanga Sea.

At that time, it was also at a latitude of 60 degrees south, much closer to Antarctica’s circle. Lightning Ridge would have been about as close to the South Pole as Helsinki’s Finnish capital is located to the north of Poland today. The area had a temperate climate that dropped deep below 40 degrees Fahrenheit but experienced long, dark winters, with days when the sun rose over the horizon just short.

Dinosaurs 101

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“Fossils from the hill help to illuminate the faunas of eastern Gondwanaland,” which at that time, 96-100 million years ago, covered perhaps one fifth of the world’s land area, “says Palalontologist Ralph Molnar with the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

When people think of cryptic dinosaurs, species from Western North America usually dominate the image. But “tyrannosaur-ceratopsian-hadrosaur fauna” seems to be something specific to North America and Asia, “said Molnar, previously based on the Queensland Museum where he was involved in the 1981 discovery of Muttaburrasaurus Australia’s most famous dinosaur.

The southern hemisphere’s dinosaur fauna had a completely different composition, and differences between South America (since Western Gondwana) and Australia are now in focus, he says.

“A special difference from South America is the overflow and diversity of small ornithic codes in Australia. “

An abundance of ornithopods

Fossil fragments reveal that there were up to three species of small ornithic codes on Lightning Ridge, Bell’s stock records in the paper, while another four are known from the state of Victoria.

In North America, small ornithic podes were living alongside larger horned ceratopsians and hatred roses, which are “on top of the evolutionary a step when it comes to chewing up the vegetation, “Bell says. Small ornitopodes like Thescelosaurus may have had difficulty getting a patience there and so was never an important element in ecosystems. But Triceratops and its relatives, along with accused species, never made it to Australia.

“As such, small ornithopodes had free range to feed on as much vegetation as they liked and developed into many different species,” Bell posits. “

” The new discoveries can help us understand the connections, possible migrations and the relationship between small and medium-sized plant-eating dinosaurs in South America, Antarctica and Australia during the war, “said Penélope Cruzado -Caballero, an expert on plant-eating dinosaurs at the National University of Rio Negro in Argentina.

While today’s continents were once made Gondwana has already begun to collapse, the fact that her team has found fossils of related ornitopods in Antarctica and Argentina “says that during the war it was necessary to be bridges that intermittently connect these continents,” she said. “The South American Fauna moved to Australia through Antarctica and gave rise to the Australian Ornitic codes? Or was it the other way around? “

New fossils can help fill these gaps in knowledge, and Bell and his team are now working with a series of other unaltered samples that will be described as new species in the coming years. 19659033]
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