Scientists have unearthed 17 “exceptionally rare” teeth from a giant herbivorous dinosaur that roamed Australia millions of years ago.
The teeth were discovered near the western Queensland town of Winton, which paleontologists believe around 96 million years ago was the edge of an inland ocean.
Several partial sauropod skeletons have previously been unearthed from the fossil hotspot, but cranial remains including teeth, remain rare.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History first discovered a dozen sauropod teeth among the scattered fossilised remains in 2019.
A second excavation uncovered another five teeth, bringing the total find to 17.
The fossils are still being examined, but initial results indicate the teeth belonged to a sauropod that fed on vegetation from a height of one to 10 metres.
The plant-eating sauropod Diamantinasaurus was one of the largest animals ever to walk the earth.
Lead author Dr Stephen Poropa, from Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, says the discovery could also reveal new details about sauropod diets.
Scientists previously thought sauropods couldn’t chew and swallowed stones to grind up food in their stomachs.
They assumed long-necked dinosaurs used peg-like teeth to rake and slice leaves off trees.
But coarse scratches on the 17 teeth suggest the Diamantinasaurus, may have chewed harder food.
“The relatively robust teeth of diamantinasaurian sauropods would have enabled them to procure parts of plants that were relatively hardy, conifer cones for example,” Dr Poropa said.
“The discovery is doubly significant as Sauropod dinosaur teeth are exceptionally rare in Australia, despite being relatively commonly preserved elements in Jurassic-Cretaceous deposits elsewhere.”
(Australian Associated Press)