New thunder from Down Under!

July 3, 2009

Big news today: Australia’s dinosaur fauna just got a little less depauperate. Hocknull et al. (2009) described three new saurischian dinosaurs in PLoS ONE, and two of them are sauropods! I’m just going to hit the highlights in this post. For all 51 pages of awesome, you can download the full paper for free.

new aussie dinos 480

Here are the new critters (Hocknull et al. 2009:fig. 40; oddly, the size of the scale bar is not given in the figure caption, but I assume it’s one meter). From top to bottom they are:

  • Australovenator wintonensis, an allosauroid possibly close to Carcharodontosauridae;
  • Wintonotitan wattsi, a basal titanosauriform;
  • Diamantinasaurus matildae, a lithostrotian titanosaur.

The new taxa are from the late Early Cretaceous Winton Formation of eastern Australia. All three are represented by incomplete but diagnostic remains, and some of the material is really beautiful.

Diamantinasaurus manus 480

Here’s one of my favorite bits: the complete reconstructed manus of Diamantinasaurus (Hocknull et al. 2009:fig. 7).  Sauropod forefeet were uniquely weird; for the full scoop read this. Note the thumb claw; if it’s legit–and the authors make a pretty good case that it is–then it’s unusual for a titanosaur, most of which are thought to lack hand claws and even manual phalanges.

Wintonotitan verts 480

Sadly no vertebrae were recovered with Diamantinasaurus, and those of Wintonotitan are not as pretty as the appendicular material. Still, they’re shards of excellence and they do carry some informative characters. Here are some dorsals and proximal caudals from Wintonotitan (Hocknull et al. 2009:fig. 13). You can see the partial rim of a pneumatic cavity on the dorsal in the upper left corner. According to the paper the sacrum was also pneumatic, which is to be expected in a titanosauriform.

There’s loads more to say about these critters and their implications for the evolution and biogeography of their respective clades, but tomorrow’s the 4th of July and I’ve got a barbeque to organize. Catch you on the flip side.

Reference

Hocknull SA, White MA, Tischler TR, Cook AG, Calleja ND, et al. (2009) New Mid-Cretaceous (Latest Albian) Dinosaurs from Winton, Queensland, Australia. PLoS ONE 4(7): e6190. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006190

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11 Responses to “New thunder from Down Under!”

  1. Tor Bertin Says:

    The images throughout the paper are amazing; gotta love having practically unlimited space.


  2. Thank you for your comments, it has been a long time coming, but worth all of the effort I hope.

    This project is almost a 100% volunteer effort, with thousands of volunteer preppers working endlessly to get the bones ready for publication. This was one of my main reasons for choosing PLoS ONE to publish in. One of my others was the opportunity to provide detail images and descriptions (as best I can).

    Most of our volunteers have no access to scientific journal subscriptions, therefore having it online and free for them to look at ment that they could see for themselves the fruits of their labours. They need more credit for the beautiful bones than I.

    We still have hundreds of bones to prepare from several sites in the Winton Formation, including two additional sauropod taxa, however, it will be a little while before you see a publication on them (sorry). Takes a long time to prep.

    In reference to the dinosaur image scale it is the standard 1m scale bar.

    I’m open to any comments on these animals. Having a comparative collection of 0 it makes life hard down under. And being new to the dino game, I’m hoping to make links for the new Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Queensland Museum with overseas organisations and researchers.

    A point on the thumb claw.

    I too was sceptical about it at first, however, we have no evidence in the deposit of a hind foot, other than the astragalus. Plus, the first metacarpal we have is annoyingly from the opposite foot (hence my reversal of it in the manus recon. figure).

    The Mc 1 does have a phalangeal facet on it (and quite a well developed one at that), so I’m pretty convinced that there is a phalange with the claw. The claw does not look like a pes claw, it simply is not load-bearing. Very straight with practically no posterior articular facet.

    Time and more bones will tell.

    I too hope to have some of Diamantinasaurus’s verts available soon(ish) for us all to discuss. Based on the preservation of the bones from this site they will be awesome. Keep you posted.

    Anyway, I’m back to responding to people debating over their nick-names. High brow stuff.

  3. Matt Wedel Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting! I think this is a first for us, to have a new-taxon describer comment on our coverage here.

    This project is almost a 100% volunteer effort, with thousands of volunteer preppers working endlessly to get the bones ready for publication.

    From the figures in the paper, it looks like they did a beautiful job. Preparators and especially volunteer preparators are the unsung heroes of paleontology.

    This was one of my main reasons for choosing PLoS ONE to publish in. One of my others was the opportunity to provide detail images and descriptions (as best I can).

    You did a great job there. It is really, really satisfying to get to read a full description, lavishly illustrated, right out of the gate. Too many taxa are described in wipers in the weeklies, and then never followed up with proper descriptions. Many thanks to you and your team for just Getting It Right the first time.

    (BTW, ‘wipers’ is Stuart Sumida’s term for too-short papers. I trust the etymology is clear.)

    Most of our volunteers have no access to scientific journal subscriptions, therefore having it online and free for them to look at ment that they could see for themselves the fruits of their labours. They need more credit for the beautiful bones than I.

    This is a beautiful sentiment and it’s honestly making me a little misty. A perfect example of why OA is so firmly entrenched on the moral high ground.

    We still have hundreds of bones to prepare from several sites in the Winton Formation, including two additional sauropod taxa, however, it will be a little while before you see a publication on them (sorry). Takes a long time to prep.

    No need to apologize! We understand all too well. If Sauroposeidon had been any more complete, I would never have gotten to work on it because my tenure at OU would have been over before it was prepped. As it was, those four vertebrae took four years. Mike is hoping for some more prep work on the NHM brachiosaur from Tendaguru, and that came out of the ground back in the 1930s.

    So it takes a while. For two–TWO!!–new Australian sauropods, we are prepared to be patient.

    In reference to the dinosaur image scale it is the standard 1m scale bar.

    Thanks for that. I didn’t mean to sound snarky in the post. It was easy enough to figure out, and you wouldn’t believe some of the dumb stuff that we’ve let slip through.

    I’m open to any comments on these animals. Having a comparative collection of 0 it makes life hard down under. And being new to the dino game, I’m hoping to make links for the new Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Queensland Museum with overseas organisations and researchers.

    Outstanding. Full sympathy on the shortage of comparative material. One reason I admire Longman is that he was able to figure out so much based on such limited material and information. It’s nice to finally have some Australian sauropods based on better material, though!

    A point on the thumb claw.

    I too was sceptical about it at first, however, we have no evidence in the deposit of a hind foot, other than the astragalus. Plus, the first metacarpal we have is annoyingly from the opposite foot (hence my reversal of it in the manus recon. figure).

    The Mc 1 does have a phalangeal facet on it (and quite a well developed one at that), so I’m pretty convinced that there is a phalange with the claw. The claw does not look like a pes claw, it simply is not load-bearing. Very straight with practically no posterior articular facet.

    Yep, as I said in the post, I think you make a pretty good case in the paper. A useful reminder of the morphological diversity within Titanosauria, which I think is often underappreciated.

    Time and more bones will tell.

    As always! Even if we do have to wait for Mother Nature’s three ugly stepchildren, Uplift, Erosion, and Exposure, to get on with their chores.

    I too hope to have some of Diamantinasaurus’s verts available soon(ish) for us all to discuss. Based on the preservation of the bones from this site they will be awesome. Keep you posted.

    Cool! That would be lovely.

    Anyway, I’m back to responding to people debating over their nick-names. High brow stuff.

    Ah, the public face of paleontology. Have fun with that!


  4. Good job on the paper Scott. My only criticism so far is that Australovenator technically IS a carcharodontosaurid in your trees, not just a relative, since Carcharodontosauridae has a stem-based definition (generally everything closer to Carcharodontosaurus than to Allosaurus or Sinraptor). But it’s great to have a somewhat complete Australian theropod.

  5. tehsma Says:

    Hey sauropod gurus, there is a video I spotted on youtube (uploaded today) which appears to be of a fossil vertebrae to my amateur eyes. Is this a sauropod vertebrae? There is not much info attached to the video, unfortunately.

    feel free to delete this comment, for it is only marginally related to the post…

  6. Zach Miller Says:

    Wonderful paper with beautiful photos and illustrations. Love the artist, by the way.


  7. [...] dinosaurs, I recommend you check out A Blog Around the Clock, The Open Source Paleontologist and SV-POW! Posted By: Brian Switek — Discoveries | Link | Share/Save  |  [...]


  8. [...] the comment on the post at Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, Scott Hocknull said: This project is almost a 100% volunteer effort, with thousands of volunteer preppers working [...]


  9. [...] the comment on the post at Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, Scott Hocknull said: This project is almost a 100% volunteer effort, with thousands of volunteer preppers working [...]

  10. Nima Says:

    That hand is a real beauty.

    I have a suspicion that most if not ALL titanosaurs actually had phalanges and thumb claws, but that they were rather loosely attached and could easily get dismembered (which the paper seems to indicate based on the loose connection of the thumb claw). It’s possible some species lost it, but the mere fact that it’s absent on things like Opisthocoelocaudia is not proof that it didn’t exist. Titanosaurs have always been fragmentary, this might go a bit towards explaining why.

    I don’t see a purpose to losing the thumb claw in evolution – it was still a good defense even if the animals could no longer rear like their Jurassic ancestors (which is a big assumption about titanosaurs, but usually they are described as less capable of rearing than even Brachiosaurs due to their longer torso.)

  11. Tim Morris Says:

    I’m Australian, and gay. Every time I hear “thunder frown down under” I automatically think of the manpower revue’s old advertisment…

    Anyhow, even the largest human, no matter how muscular, would be humbled by a sauropod, if not plain stepped on like an insect.


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