Australia: The Land Where Time Began
This pliosaur was the largest known marine reptile of its time, and possibly of all time. It lived in the inland sea of Australia in the Early Cretaceous, about 100-110 million years ago. It was 12.8 m long, of which the head was 2 m, with teeth up to 30 cm long. It is known that it ate elasmosaurs and turtles, because their remains have been found in the area of its gut in the fossils.
Its fossils were found near Hughenden (Toolebuc Formation) in central Queensland. Other specimens have been found in the Army Downs region and Grampian Valley, 50 km north of Richmond, also in Queensland.
Doubts have been expressed that the Harvard Skelton is the same species as the type specimen described by Longman (1924), the 2 specimens being found in strata from different ages (Molnar, 1982a, 1982b, 1991).
The Harvard specimen has been examined by Colin McHenry, who also examined new Queensland material, has found no evidence of more than a single taxon (1997).
Some conclusions have been drawn from the type material as well a new material from Queensland. The original type material and remains from the Toolebuc formation suggest a streamlined skull with adductor fossae for the jaw muscles that are large. Forward-facing orbits also faced upwards and sideways. Behind the orbits, a prominent mid-nasal ridge continues rising to a parasagittal crest (formed by the parietals) that is moderately high, along the long axis of the skull. The Harvard mount, constructed in 1958, had a high transverse hump on the squamosals, but evidence for this has not been found (McHenry's communication to Long, 1997).
Long, John A, 1998, Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand, University of New South Wales Press.
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