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Turkey-sized dinosaur found caught in an ancient logjam

Jan. 11 (UPI) — Paleontologists have discovered a new dinosaur species preserved in an ancient logjam in Australia. The turkey-sized dinosaur offers new insights into the diversity of ornithopods during the Cretaceous period.

The newly named species, Diluvicursor pickeringi, was a bipedal herbivorous dinosaur. The small species was found among 113-million-year-old rocks in southwestern Australia.

“Diluvicursor shows for the first time that there were at least two distinct body-types among closely related ornithopods in this part of Australia,” Matt Herne, a researcher at the University of Queensland, said in a news release. “One was lightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other, Diluvicursor, was more solidly built, with a far shorter tail. Our preliminary reconstruction of the tail musculature of Diluvicursor suggests this dinosaur was a good runner, with powerful leg retracting muscles.”

Scientists published their analysis of the small-bodied ornithopod this week in the journal PeerJ.

By reconstructing the anatomy of Diluvicursor pickeringi, researchers hope to develop a better understanding of how the species interacted with the environment.

The fossil was discovered in an eroding rock platform at Eric the Red West, a famous paleological site near Cape Otway in southern Victoria. The ancient rock outcroppings were exposed by the Australian-Antarctic rift. Wave erosion has slowly brought a variety of ancient vertebrate fossils to the surface.

Combined with other fossils from the site, the new dino species offers scientists a more complete picture of the rift valley ecosystem. The density of fossilized material at Eric the Red West suggests the ancient site once hosted a massive logjam.

“The carcass of the Diluvicursor pickeringi holotype appears to have become entangled in a log-jam at the bottom of this river,” said Herne. “The sizes of some of the logs in the deposit and the abundance of wood suggest the river traversed a well-forested floodplain. The logs preserved at the site are likely to represent conifer forests of trees within families still seen in Australia today.”

Herne and his colleagues hope to conduct new excavation expeditions at the logjam in the near future.

“Much of the fossil vertebrate material from Eric the Red West has yet to be described, so further dinosaurs and other exciting animals from this site are now anticipated,” he said.

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