Elliot the Sauropod
Elliot's remains were found by grazier David Elliott in 1999 while he was mustering sheep. The Queensland Museum Geosciences team first visited the site in June 2001. David had collected part of the right femur, portions of several tail vertebrae, ribs and hundreds of smaller fragments. These pieces were found on the surface, in patches spread out over an area 250m x 50m.
Artist impression of Elliot the sauropod
In September 2001, QM palaeontologists mapped the position of all the larger pieces and discovered many more concentrations of smaller fragments. A 350m x 110m grid with 10m x 10m quadrats was set up. In the quadrat where the portion of femur and the tail vertebrae were found, a 5m x 5m test hole was dug to see if more bone could be recovered at depth. About 1.5 metres down we reached the base of the black soil, and in so doing unearthed the remainder of the right femur, confirming our hypothesis that bones moved around within the soil profile. Portions of more tail vertebrae were also recovered. These discoveries have also shown that concentrations of bone fragments at the surface correlate with the presence of more complete elements below ground.
Elliot was a titanosaur sauropod dinosaur. Sauropods were gigantic four-legged plant-eaters, characterised by:
- long necks and tails,
- legs as thick as Greek pillars,
- and relatively small heads.
Elliot is only known from a single thigh (femur) bone that measures about 1.6m in length. Elliot is estimated to have been up to 18 metres long, 3.5 metres high at the hip and weighed as much as 20 tonnes.
Even the smallest sauropods, which were about 8m long and weighed almost 10 tonnes, were larger than most other dinosaurs. Some of the larger sauropods, such as Argentinosaurus or Paralititan, are thought to have exceeded 30m in length and weighed as much as 80-90 tonnes, making them the largest animals to have ever walked the Earth.
Since the discovery of Elliot, several other sauropods have been found in Winton, including two associated skeletons, "Wade and Matilda". In 2009 two new species were scientifically identified and named, Diamantinasaurus and Wintonotitan. You can find out more about these and other dinosaur discoveries at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.