New Australian dinosaur discovered

Posted by | September 09, 2015 | ERS, News, Palaeoscience, Research, Staff, Students | No Comments

A new carnivorous dinosaur, dubbed “Lightning Claw” has been discovered in the opal town of Lightning Ridge, NSW.

At approximately 7m long, it is the largest carnivorous dinosaur yet known from Australia and only the second in Australia known from more than a single bone.

Palaeontologist Dr Phil Bell from the University of New England is the lead author of the recently published study on the new prehistoric carnivore.

Illustration of Steroponychus. Credit Julius Csotonyi

Illustration of “Lightning Claw”. Credit Julius Csotonyi.

“I immediately recognised this fossil was something new. When I compared it to other Australian and South American dinosaurs, it was clear it was a megaraptorid which is relatively rare group of dinosaurs, mostly known from Argentina,” Dr Bell said.

The skeleton, discovered by miners Rob and Debbie Brogan, consists of a foot bone, parts of the hip, ribs, forearm, and a giant claw from the hand.

The hand claw would have been approximately 25cm in length and would have been used like a grappling hook to catch its prey.

Bone with blue flash of colour from opal

Bone with blue flash of colour from opal

“What is fascinating about this discovery is it changes the popular notion that Australian dinosaurs came from ancestors derived from Africa and South America – instead the “Lightning Claw” appears to be the ancestor of all megaraptorids, meaning this group appeared first in Australia,” Dr Bell said.

The bones come from the Early Cretaceous period and are close to 110 million years old.