Dinosaur remains uncovered from central Queensland in Australia could be the first fragments of a vicious new dinosaur species never seen before.
The 93 million year-old remains, comprising bones from the creature’s hands, feet and spine, suggest the creature was a relative of the infamous Tyrannosaurs Rex.
It was likely a megaraptorid, a medium-sized carnivorous dinosaur similar to the Australovenator and the Tyrannosaurus genera of dinosaurs.
However, 3D analysis of the newly-found fragments, which were recovered from the rocky Winton Formation, show slight differences in size, suggesting it is indeed a new species.
The new megaraptor belonged to the same category of dinosaurs as the T-rex, known as theropods.
Scroll down for video
Pictured: 3D scans of tail vertebrae fragments from the possible new species, described as a megaraptorid by palaeontologists
Megaraptors weighed around half a ton and preyed on other dinosaurs, ripping them to shreds using its huge hands and serrated blade like teeth.
‘Megaraptors had broad feet which distributed their body weight over a greater area than a much larger theropod such as Allosaurus whose feet were of a similar size but supported an animal of 1-2 tonnes,’ said lead researcher Dr Matt White, a palaeontologist at the University of New England, New South Wales.
This weight distribution, which is seen in wading birds today, provided superior agility over its prey in the coastal rivers and soft marsh environments.
Megaraptors were around 23 feet long and 7 feet tall at the hip, with robust forearms, two hind legs and two lethal arms.
The new remains comprise two partial vertebrae – the only megaraptoid vertebrae known from Queensland – as well as three bones from hands and feet and other unidentifiable bone fragments.
Researchers believe this new species would have had two three digits at the end of each arm, two of which had huge curved claws.
The creature’s teeth are often found at excavation sites of the herbivorous sauropods in the Winton region , indicating the predator often hunted the long-necked beasts.
Pictured: an artist’s impression of the plant-eating dinosaur Diamantinasaurus being attacked by the newly-discovered Australoventor
The dig site in Winton Formation, Queensland, described as Australia’s dinosaur graveyard
‘[Sauropods] are the most common plant eater found there with three different species discovered so far including Diamantinasaurus matildae, Savannasaurus elliottorum and Wintonotitan wattsi,’ Dr White said.
The unfortunate sauropod prey was caught with outstretched arms and grappled and punctured with the claws, kicked, and bitten with razor-sharp teeth.
‘Its feet have claws similar to flightless bird the Cassowary which are known to defend themselves by kicking,’ Dr White said.
Some of the remains resembled the skeletal elements of Australovenator wintonensis, Australia’s most complete theropod dinosaur.
A. wintonensis was a medium-sized predator, approximately 16 to 19 feet long.
But this new discovery is slightly larger than A. wintonensis and shows slight variation – suggesting another species entirely.
The new dinosaur is way smaller than its fellow theropod, the T. rex, which was around 40 feet long and 12 feet tall at the hips.
Researchers identified the partial remains near the town of Winton, central Queensland, dubbed the ‘dinosaur capital of Australia’.
The Winton Formation is a thick sequence of sedimentary rocks in the Great Artesian Basin and a graveyard of dinosaur remains.
Each year, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, a non-profit organisation and museum local to Winton, holds dinosaur digs near the town.
In 2017, the team discovered the site of the new find by chance while waiting for another site to dry out after rare rain.
‘The site was just littered with broken up pieces of bone which didn’t really resemble any complete bones so we marked the site and returned in 2018 to collect the surface material and excavate the site,’ said dig coordinator Bob Elliott.
‘Although there was no additional remains below the surface I was amazed that what we found was only the second fragmentary theropod discovered in the area,’ said Dr White.
Winton is also home to the world’s only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede.
At Lark Quarry Conservation Park there are 3,300 stampeding footprints immortalised in stone that are more than 95 million years old.
The research was carried out by palaeontologists from the Palaeoscience Research Centre at the University of New England, Swinburne University, and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton QLD.
The study of the remains has been published in Royal Society Open Science.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE MEGARAPTORS?
The megaraptors were a clade of mid-to-large-sized theropod dinosaurs.
Walking on two legs, the megaraptors had long snouts, large claws and long, thin metatarsal bones in their toes.
Their name is derived from the Latin for ‘giant thieves’.
To date, megaraptors have primarily been unearthed from Australia and South America.
New finds have indicated that megaraptors may have originated in Southeast Asia and then spread to other regions.
The group is distantly related to Tyrannosaurus Rex.