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Australian and Antarctic Dinosaurs

The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of Australia and Antarctica

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Although Australia and Antarctica weren't in the mainstream of dinosaur evolution during the Mesozoic Era, these remote continents hosted their fair share of theropods, sauropods and ornithopods. Here's a list of the 10 most important dinosaurs of Australia and Antarctica, ranging from Antarctopelta to Rhoetosaurus.

1. Antarctopelta

antarctopelta
Eduardo Camarga

The first dinosaur ever to be discovered in Antarctica, Antarctopelta was a classic ankylosaur, with its small head and squat, low-slung body covered by tough, knobby skin. Antarctopelta's armor had a strictly defensive, rather than metabolic, function: 100 million years ago, Antarctica was a lush, temperate continent, not the frozen icebox it is today. More about Antarctopelta

2. Australovenator

australovenator
Sergey Krasovskiy

Closely related to the South American Megaraptor, Australovenator had a much sleeker build, so much so that one paleontologist has described this theropod as the "cheetah" of Cretaceous Australia. Because the evidence for Australian dinosaurs is so slim, it's unknown exactly what Australovenator preyed on, but multi-ton titanosaurs were probably out of the question. More about Australovenator

3. Cryolophosaurus

cryolophosaurus
Australian Museum

Informally known as "Elvisaurus," after the single, ear-to-ear crest across its forehead, Cryolophosaurus is the largest theropod yet identified from Jurassic Antarctica (which isn't to say much, since this was only the second dinosaur ever to be discovered on the southern continent). Insight into the lifestyle of this "cold-crested lizard" will have to await future fossil discoveries. More about Cryolophosaurus

4. Diamantinasaurus

diamantinasaurus
T. Tischler

Titanosaurs, the huge, lightly armored descendants of the sauropods, had attained a global distribution by the end of the Cretaceous period, as witness the recent discovery of the 10-ton Diamintinasaurus. However, it's hard to make the case that Diamintinasaurus was any more important than another, contemporary Australian titanosaur, the comparably sized Wintonotitan. More about Diamantinasaurus

5. Leaellynasaura

leaellynasaura
Nobu Tamura

The difficult-to-pronounce Leaellynasaura is notable for two reasons. First, this is the only dinosaur ever to be named after a little girl (the daughter of Australian paleontologists Thomas Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich); and second, this tiny, big-eyed ornithopod subsisted in a brisk climate, raising the possibility that it possessed something approaching a warm-blooded metabolism. More about Leaellynasaura

6. Minmi

minmi
Australian Museum

Minmi probably wasn't the only ankylosaur of Cretaceous Australia, but it was almost certainly the dumbest: this armored dinosaur had an unusually small "encephalization quotient" (the ratio of its brain mass to its body mass), and it wasn't too impressive to look at either, with only minimal plating on its back and stomach. More about Minmi

7. Muttaburrasaurus

muttaburrasaurus
Australian Museum

Citizens of Australia would probably cite Muttaburrasaurus as their favorite dinosaur: the fossils of this ornithopod are some of the most complete ever to be found Down Under, and its size (about 30 feet long and 3 tons) made it a true giant of Australia's dinosaur community. Strangely enough, Muttaburrassaurus was closely related to another plant-eater from halfway around the world, the European Iguanodon. More about Muttaburrasaurus

8. Ozraptor

ozraptor
Government of Australia

The name Ozraptor is only partially accurate: although this small dinosaur did live in Australia, it wasn't technically a raptor, but a type of theropod known as an abelisaur (after the South American Abelisaurus). Known by a single tibia, Ozraptor is only slightly more respectable in the paleontology community than the putative, still unnamed Australian tyrannosaur that was announced a couple of years ago. More about Ozraptor

9. Qantassaurus

qantassaurus
Wikimedia Commons

A close relative of Leaellynasaura, Qantassaurus was a comparably small, big-eyed ornithopod that somehow made its living in a frigid climate (raising the possibility that it possessed a mammal-like metabolism). Qantassaurus was named after the national airline of Australia, Qantas; oddly enough, another Australian ornithopod, Atlascopcosaurus, was named after the Atlas-Copco Company. More about Qantassaurus

10. Rhoetosaurus

rhoetosaurus
Australian Museum

The largest sauropod ever to be discovered in Australia, Rhoetosaurus is especially important because it dates from the middle, rather than the late, Jurassic period (and thus appeared on the scene much earlier than two Australian titanosaurs, Diamintinasaurus and Wintonotitan). As far as paleontologists can tell, Rhoetosaurus' closest non-Australian relative was the Asian Shunosaurus. More about Rhoetosaurus

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