The Queensland Museum Geosciences and Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum have been actively excavating dinosaurs from western Queensland, near the township of Winton, since 2001. This collaboration was sparked by the discovery, in 1999, of one of Australia's largest dinosaurs, dubbed "Elliot", a gigantic sauropod from the Cretaceous Period (95 million years ago).
The dinosaur bones are from rocks found in the Winton Formation, a geological layer 102-98 million years old. Since excavations began, several other types of dinosaurs have been found, including plant-eating ankylosaurs and ornithopods, plus the serrated teeth of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs.
In 2009, three new species of dinosaur were formally scientifically named from Winton:
Among the remains of these dinosaurs are the fossils of small animals and plants, which may have been considered dinosaurs' food!
Volunteers from across Australia and overseas help to excavate the dinosaur bones, putting them in plaster jackets ready for transport to the lab. There, they are painstakingly prepared for scientific study and display.
The famous Australian poet Banjo Patterson and his characters were the inspiration for the nicknames given to the new dinosaurs. Banjo Patterson wrote Waltzing Matilda in Winton in 1885 and also authored Clancy of the Overflow.
In a quirky twist of fate, Banjo (Australovenator) and Matilda (Diamantinasaurus) were both found buried together in what turns out to be a 98 million-year old billabong. Banjo Patterson's story of Waltzing Matilda describes the unfortunate end to a swagman who steals a jumbuck (sheep) but is chased by police and ends up leaping into and drowning in a billabong alongside his stolen sheep.
Unique Museum - Community Partnership
Banjo, Matilda and Clancy were discovered and the fossils prepared and preserved through a unique partnership between the State government-funded Queensland Museum, and emerging not-for-profit organisation, the Winton-based Australian Age of Dinosaurs Ltd. Queensland Museum provided their expertise and mentoring skills, led by Queensland Museum Senior Curator of Geosciences, Dr. Scott Hocknull, former Young Australian of the Year.
The announcement of the discovery of the three new species of dinosaurs, coincides with the opening of Stage 1 of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in Winton, a Queensland Government Q150 project, a three-stage project due for completion in 2015.
Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.