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Muttaburrasaurus
Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
Skeleton at the Queensland Museum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Infraorder: Ornithopoda
Family: Iguanodontidae
Genus: Muttaburrasaurus
Bartholomai & Molnar, 1981
Species

M. langdoni Bartholomai & Molnar, 1981 (type)

Muttaburrasaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 113-97.5 million years ago. This dinosaur means "Muttaburra (in Queensland, Australia) lizard". Muttaburrasaurus are about 24 feet (7 m) long. They may have lived in herds.

Description

Muttaburrasaurus NT
Restoration

Muttaburrasaurus was about 8 metres (26 ft) and weighed around 2.8 metric tons (3.1 short tons). The femur of the holotype has a length of 1,015 millimetres (40.0 in).

Whether Muttaburrasaurus is capable of quadrupedal movement has been debated; it was originally thought to be an "Iguanodontid"; thought recent studies indicate a rhabdodont position. Ornithopods this basal were incapable of quadrupedal movement. Originally reconstructing Muttaburrasaurus with a thumb spike, Molnar later doubted such a structure was present. The foot was long and broad, with four toes.

The skull of Muttaburrasaurus was rather flat, with a triangular cross-section when seen from above; the back of the head is broad but the snout pointed. The snout includes a strongly enlarged, hollow, upward-bulging nasal muzzle that might have been used to produce distinctive calls or for display purposes. However, as no fossilised nasal tissue has been found, this remains conjectural. This so-called bulla nasalis was shorter in the older Muttaburrasaurus sp., as is shown by the Dunluce Skull. The top section of the bulla of the holotype has not been preserved, but at least the second skull has a rounded profile.

Discovery and species

Muttaburrasaurus skull aus
Mounted skull of a Muttaburrasaurus langdoni at the Australian Museum, Sydney.
Hughenden-dinosaur-outback-queensland-australia
Muttaburrasaurus statue in Hughenden, outback Queensland, Australia

The species was initially described from a partial skeleton found by grazier Doug Langdon in 1963 at Rosebery Downs Station beside Thomson River near Muttaburra, in the Australian state of Queensland, which also provides the creature's generic name. The remains were collected by paleontologist Dr Alan Bartholomai and entomologist Edward Dahms. After a lengthy preparation of the fossils, it was named in 1981 by Bartholomai and Ralph Molnar, who honoured its discoverer with its specific name langdoni.

The holotype, specimen QM F6140, was found in the Mackunda Formation dating to the Albian-Cenomanian. It consists of a partial skeleton with skull and lower jaws. The underside of the skull and the back of the mandibula, numerous vertebrae, parts of the pelvis, and parts of the front and hind limbs have been preserved.

Muttaburrasaurus-Dinosaur-skeleton
Reconstructed skeleton at the Queensland Museum

Some teeth have been discovered further north, near Hughenden, and south at Lightning Ridge, in northwestern New South Wales. At Lightning Ridge there have been found opalised teeth and a scapula that may be from a Muttaburrasaurus. A skull, known as the "Dunluce Skull", specimen QM F14921, was discovered by John Stewart-Moore and 14-year-old Robert Walker on Dunluce Station, between Hughenden and Richmond in 1987. It originates from somewhat older layers of the Allaru Mudstone and was considered by Molnar to be a separate, yet unnamed species, a Muttaburrasaurus sp. The same area produced two fragmentary skeletons in 1989. There have also been isolated teeth and bones found at Iona Station southeast of Hughenden.

Reconstructed skeleton casts of Muttaburrasaurus, sponsored by Kellogg Company, have been put on display at a number of museums, including the Queensland Museum, Flinders Discovery Centre and National Dinosaur Museum in Australia.

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