A 15-year mission in outback Australia has uncovered what is likely the world’s largest dinosaur, nicknamed ‘Cooper’ by locals.
The fossilised remains of the sauropod dinosaur were first discovered on the cattle property of Stuart and Robyn Mackenzie west of Eromanga in remote south-west Queensland back in 2006.
Fifteen years later the 95-98 million-year-old bones are recognised as the largest skeletal remains of a dinosaur ever found in Australia.
Artist’s impression of Cooper, or Australotitan cooperensis, a new species of dinosaur
Artist’s impression of Cooper’s size relative to the dig site at Eromanga in south-west Queensland
Stuart and Robyn Mackenzie pose with a titanosaur bone in 2007, shortly after it was discovered on their cattle property near Eromanga
Robyn Mackenzie with a giant fossilised bone at the Eromanga Natural History Museum, which she founded to display Cooper and other dinosaurs discovered in the remote area
Nicknamed Cooper by the Mackenzies because of its location on the Cooper Creek, the dinosaur was believed to have been 30metres long and 6.5metres high (ground to hip).
Cooper is awaiting classification as a new species of dinosaur, one of the top 10 largest dinosaurs in the world and part of a group of ‘titanosaurs’ previously only found in South America.
‘Cooper is a local hero,’ Ms Mackenzie told A Current Affair.
‘A very big local hero and a gentle giant. I think he’s pretty special.’
‘In Australia, it’s certainly the largest animal that’s ever walked the outback,’ Queensland Museum vertebrate palaeontologist, Dr Scott Hocknull, told the ABC.
‘This is huge, this is a fantastic beast. Imagine something the size of a basketball court walking around on land.’
The discovery had birthed a new tourist industry in the town, where Ms Mackenzie had founded the Eromanga Natural History Museum to display parts of Cooper and other dinosaur finds in the area.
She is currently trying to expand the museum to cope with the crowds expected to visit to see Cooper.
Cooper was a vegetarian who stood 6.5metres high and was 30metres long
Dr Scott Hocknull of the Queensland Museum and Ms Mackenzie pose with a model of Cooper’s humerus bone alongside the fossilised remains of the bone
Ms Mackenzie poses with a fossilised dinosaur bone at the dig site west of Eromanga in country Queensland
Ms Mackenzie also believes there are more dinosaurs to be discovered in the area.
‘There’s dozens of sites, there’s dozens of dinosaurs potentially out there that will need preparation and then research after they’ve been dug up,’ she told the ABC.
A vegetarian who needed to eat enough to fill a stomach the size of a skip bin, it’s not known how Cooper met his end after roaming the land.
‘It’s possible the terrain simply dried up and couldn’t sustain his kind,’ Ms MacKenzie said.
‘Certainly he lived long before other dinosaurs which were wiped out by a suspected meteor hitting the earth about 65 million years ago.’