Dinosaurs first evolved in the Triassic Period 245 million years ago, yet no bones have ever been found in Australia from this time. Fossilised footprints discovered in southeast Queensland shows us that dinosaurs did indeed live in Australia during the Triassic period.
What are Dinosaurs?
Dinosaurs belonged to a group of reptiles that included birds, crocodiles and other prehistoric animals such as pterosaurs (flying reptiles). All these animals are called ‘archosaurs’ or ‘ruling reptiles’.
They lived 245 – 65 million years ago. This period is called the ‘Age of Reptiles’. All dinosaurs lived on land, had four limbs, walked on two or four legs and breathed air. Some ate plants, others were fearsome carnivores. Physical features shared by all dinosaurs include:
- An internal skeleton
- Walking upright with limbs held directly under the body
- Breathe air through lungs
- Skin covered with scales or feathers to prevent them from drying out
- Lay hard-shelled eggs
The Fossil record shows that Australia had a unique and diverse range of dinosaurs. The majority of fossils have been found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Some bones and footprints have been found in Western Australia and South Australia.
New discoveries of relatively complete fossils from Queensland are now putting Australia on the global dinosaur map and opening up a ‘new frontier’ for research.
Muttaburrasaurus: Muttaburrasaurus langdoni
One of the most famous Australian Dinosaurs is the Muttaburrasaurus. Named after the town of Muttaburra in central Queensland, Muttaburrasaurus langdoni was discovered by local grazier Doug Langdon, for whom the dinosaur is named.
Muttaburrasaurus lived 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. It was a herbivore, with rows of grinding teeth. Several specimens of this dinosaur have been found in central and northern Queensland, and a few teeth have been found in New South Wales. Muttaburrasaurus was about 7m long, and probably ate plants such as ferns, cycads and conifers and may have lived in herds.