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A Dinosaur with an ID Crisis

The skeleton of Kunbarrasaurus ieversi

The skeleton of Kunbarrasaurus ieversi, Australia’s most complete dinosaur fossil. Photograph © A. O’Toole & L. Leahey

By Lucy Leahey

It’s little wonder that a dinosaur with a parrot-like beak, bones in its skin and an inner ear like a turtle confused the palaeontologists who discovered it in Queensland in 1990.

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Most people dream about discovering ancient relics or dinosaurs in their backyard. This became a reality for the Ievers family in 1989 when they stumbled across a 100 million-year-old, near-perfectly preserved pliosaur (a marine reptile with flippers) in the paddock behind Marathon Station’s homestead near Richmond in north-west Queensland.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when a couple of months later they came across what they thought was another marine monster. They immediately contacted the Queensland Museum, and a very excited group of palaeontologists made the trek out from Brisbane in the scorching summer heat of January 1990.

Dr Ralph Molnar, who was the Museum’s curator, led the dig. He soon realised that this skeleton wasn’t from an animal that had lived in the Eromanga Sea – an ancient sea that had extended over the interior of Queensland – but that of an ankylosaur that had been washed out from the nearby land.

Ankylosaurs are often referred to as...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.