Austrosaurus: Dive into Australia’s Giant Sauropod

An illustration of the Austrosaurus in profile view

Austrosaurus was a large plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Queensland, Australia, during the Early Cretaceous period, about 112 to 105 million years ago. It was one of the first dinosaurs to be discovered in Australia, and its name means “southern lizard”. It had a long neck and tail, but also carried armor in the form of osteoderms. These were bony plates or spikes that covered its back and neck, and may have helped it defend itself from predators.

Basic Information

Time PeriodEarly Cretaceous (112-105 million years ago)
Length15-20 meters (49-66 feet)
Weight20-30 metric tons (22-33 short tons)
HabitatsGrasslands, Floodplains

Description of Austrosaurus

Historical Context

Austrosaurus was the first dinosaur to be discovered and named in Australia, in 1933 by Heber Longman. It was found on a farm near the coast of Victoria, in layers of the Eumeralla Formation dating from the early Cretaceous, Aptian-Albian. The holotype consists of a piece of the upper jaw, a partial maxilla with teeth, and referred specimens include teeth, another maxilla, and dentaries. Austrosaurus was one of the earliest members of the Titanosauria, a group of sauropod dinosaurs that had massive bodies and long necks. It may have been related to other titanosaurs from South America and Asia.

Physical Attributes

Austrosaurus was a large herbivorous dinosaur that belonged to the group of sauropods, which were characterized by their long necks, long tails, and four-legged stance. Austrosaurus had a broad, low-slung body with short legs and a long tail. Its head was wide and flat, with small eyes and nostrils that faced sideways rather than forward. Its jaws were covered with a horny beak and had small, peg-like teeth for cropping plants. Its most distinctive feature was its size, which was estimated to be 15-20 meters (49-66 feet) long and 20-30 metric tons (22-33 short tons) in weight. It was one of the largest land animals of all time.

Feeding Habits

Austrosaurus was a herbivore that fed on low-growing plants such as ferns, cycads, and horsetails. It had a broad muzzle that allowed it to take large bites of vegetation. It did not have complex teeth for chewing, so it swallowed its food whole or with minimal processing. It had a large gut that could digest tough plant matter with the help of symbiotic bacteria. Austrosaurus may have used its long neck to browse on different levels of the forest canopy, avoiding competition with other herbivores.

Unique Features

Austrosaurus had several unique features that distinguished it from other sauropods and dinosaurs. One of them was its size, which was larger than most other titanosaurs. It reached a length of 15-20 meters (49-66 feet) and a weight of 20-30 metric tons (22-33 short tons). Another unique feature was its posture, which was more horizontal than vertical. Austrosaurus held its neck and tail parallel to the ground, rather than arching them upward or downward. This posture may have helped Austrosaurus balance its massive body and reduce stress on its bones and muscles.

Movement and Speed

Austrosaurus was not a fast or agile dinosaur. It walked on four legs and had a low center of gravity, which made it stable but also limited its mobility. It could not turn quickly or run for long distances. Its top speed has been estimated to be around 10 km/h (6 mph), similar to an elephant’s pace. However, it could make sudden movements when necessary, such as raising its head or swinging its tail.

Cultural Impact

Austrosaurus has not been featured in many books, movies, games, or toys as a popular dinosaur. It is often overshadowed by other sauropods such as Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, or Apatosaurus. However, some examples of its appearances in popular culture are Dinosaur King (2007-2009), a Japanese anime series where it is one of the main characters’ dinosaurs, and Jurassic World Evolution (2018), a video game where it is one of the unlockable dinosaurs.

Interesting Facts

  • Austrosaurus was the first dinosaur to be discovered and named in Australia, in 1933.
  • Austrosaurus lived about 112-105 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous, Aptian-Albian age, and are now known from fossils in the Eumeralla Formation of Victoria.
  • Austrosaurus was one of the earliest members of the Titanosauria, a group of sauropod dinosaurs that had massive bodies and long necks.
  • Austrosaurus had a simple and triangular frill that rose sharply from the nasal bone like a bump.
  • Austrosaurus had a pair of large horns over its eyes, similar to those of Triceratops.

Related Dinosaurs

  • Wintonotitan: A close relative of Austrosaurus that had a similar size and posture and lived in Australia.
  • Saltasaurus: Another close relative of Austrosaurus that had a smaller size and bony armor on its back and lived in South America.
  • Opisthocoelicaudia: A more distant relative of Austrosaurus that had a shorter neck and tail and lived in Asia.
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