Muttaburrasaurus was a genus of herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur, which lived in what is now northeastern Australia sometime between 112 and 99.6 million years ago[1] during the early Cretaceous Period. It has been recovered in some analyses as a member of the iguanodontian family Rhabdodontidae.[2] After Kunbarrasaurus, it is Australia's most completely known dinosaur from skeletal remains. It was named after Muttaburra, the site in Queensland, Australia, where it was found.

Temporal range: Early Cretaceous,[1] 112–99.6 Ma
Muttaburrasaurus skel QM email
Reconstructed skeleton at the Queensland Museum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Suborder: Ornithopoda
Clade: Rhabdodontomorpha
Genus: Muttaburrasaurus
Bartholomai & Molnar, 1981
M. langdoni
Binomial name
Muttaburrasaurus langdoni
Bartholomai & Molnar, 1981


Muttaburrasaurus NT

Muttaburrasaurus was about 8 metres (26 ft) and weighed around 2.8 metric tons (3.1 short tons).[3] 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.[4] 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.[4]

Discovery and species

Muttaburrasaurus skull aus
Mounted skull of a Muttaburrasaurus langdoni at the Australian Museum, Sydney.

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.[5]

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.

Reconstructed skeleton at the Queensland Museum

Some teeth have been discovered further north, near Hughenden,[4] and south at Lightning Ridge,[4] 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.[4] 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.


Molnar originally assigned Muttaburrasaurus to the Iguanodontidae. Later authors suggested more basal euornithopod groups such as the Camptosauridae, Dryosauridae or Hypsilophodontidae. Studies by Andrew McDonald indicate a position in the Rhabdodontidae.[6][7]


Statue in Hughenden, outback Queensland, Australia

Muttaburrasaurus had very powerful jaws equipped with shearing teeth. Whereas in more derived euornithopod species the replacement teeth alternated with the previous tooth generation to form a tooth battery, in Muttaburrasaurus they grew directly under them and only a single erupted generation was present, thus precluding a chewing motion. An additional basal trait was the lack of a primary ridge on the teeth sides, which show eleven lower ridges. In 1981 Molnar speculated that these qualities indicated an omnivorous diet, implying that Muttaburrasaurus occasionally ate carrion. In 1995 he changed his opinion, suspecting that Muttaburrasaurus's dental system is evolutionarily convergent with the ceratopsian system of shearing teeth. They would have been an adaptation for eating tough vegetation such as cycads.[8]


  1. ^ a b Holtz, Thomas R. Jr. (2012) Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages, Winter 2011 Appendix.
  2. ^ McDonald, A.T.; Kirkland, J.I.; DeBlieux, D.D.; Madsen, S.K.; Cavin, J.; Milner, A.R.C.; Panzarin, L. (2010). "New Basal Iguanodonts from the Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah and the Evolution of Thumb-Spiked Dinosaurs". PLoS ONE. 5 (11): e14075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014075. PMC 2989904. PMID 21124919.
  3. ^ Paul, G.S. (2010). The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, Princeton University Press, p. 286.
  4. ^ a b c d e Molnar, R.E. (1996). "Observations on the Australian ornithopod dinosaur, Muttaburrasaurus"". Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 39 (3): 639–652.
  5. ^ Bartholomai, A; Molnar, R.E. (1981). "Muttaburrasaurus: a new Iguanodontid (Ornithischia:Ornithopoda) dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Queensland". Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 20 (2): 319–349.
  6. ^ McDonald AT, Kirkland JI, DeBlieux DD, Madsen SK, Cavin J, et al. (2010). "New Basal Iguanodonts from the Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah and the Evolution of Thumb-Spiked Dinosaurs". PLoS ONE. 5 (11): e14075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014075. PMC 2989904. PMID 21124919.
  7. ^ McDonald, A. T. (2012). Farke, Andrew A (ed.). "Phylogeny of Basal Iguanodonts (Dinosauria: Ornithischia): An Update". PLoS ONE. 7 (5): e36745. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036745. PMC 3358318. PMID 22629328.
  8. ^ Molnar, R.E., 1995, "Possible convergence in the jaw mechanisms of ceratopians and Muttaburrasaurus". In: A.Sun and Y.Wang (eds) Sixth Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems and Biota, short papers. China Ocean Press, Beijing. pp.115-117

Further reading

  • Cannon, Libby (2006). "The Muttaburra Lizard". Australian Age of Dinosaurs (4): 16–31.
1981 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1981.


The Albian is both an age of the geologic timescale and a stage in the stratigraphic column. It is the youngest or uppermost subdivision of the Early/Lower Cretaceous epoch/series. Its approximate time range is 113.0 ± 1.0 Ma to 100.5 ± 0.9 Ma (million years ago). The Albian is preceded by the Aptian and followed by the Cenomanian.


Aralosaurini is a tribe of basal lambeosaurine hadrosaurs endemic to Eurasia. It currently contains Aralosaurus (from the Aral sea of Kazakhstan) and Canardia (from Toulouse, Southern France).


Australovenator (meaning "southern hunter") is a genus of megaraptorid theropod dinosaur from Cenomanian (Late Cretaceous)-age Winton Formation (dated to 95 million years ago) of Australia. It is known from partial cranial and postcranial remains which were described in 2009 by Scott Hocknull and colleagues, although additional descriptions and analyses continue to be published. It is the most complete predatory dinosaur discovered in Australia.


Burianosaurus is a genus of ornithopod dinosaur that lived in what is now the Czech Republic (it was found in 2003 near the city of Kutná Hora), being the first validly named dinosaur from that country. It was named B. augustai in 2017; the genus name honours the Czech palaeoartist Zdeněk Burian, and the species name honours the Czech palaeontologist Josef Augusta. The holotype specimen is a femur discovered in 2003, which was described as possibly belonging to an iguanodont in 2005.


The Cenomanian is, in the ICS' geological timescale the oldest or earliest age of the Late Cretaceous epoch or the lowest stage of the Upper Cretaceous series. An age is a unit of geochronology: it is a unit of time; the stage is a unit in the stratigraphic column deposited during the corresponding age. Both age and stage bear the same name.

As a unit of geologic time measure, the Cenomanian age spans the time between 100.5 ± 0.9 Ma and 93.9 ± 0.8 Ma (million years ago). In the geologic timescale it is preceded by the Albian and is followed by the Turonian. The Upper Cenomanian starts approximately at 95 M.a.

The Cenomanian is coeval with the Woodbinian of the regional timescale of the Gulf of Mexico and the early part of the Eaglefordian of the regional timescale of the East Coast of the United States.

At the end of the Cenomanian an anoxic event took place, called the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary event or the "Bonarelli Event", that is associated with a minor extinction event for marine species.


Dryosaurids were primitive iguanodonts. They are known from Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous rocks of Africa, Europe, and North America.


Elasmaria is a clade of iguanodont ornithopods known from Cretaceous deposits in South America, Antarctica, and Australia.


Gideonmantellia is an extinct genus of basal ornithopod dinosaur known from the Early Cretaceous (Barremian stage) of Galve, Province of Teruel, Spain. It contains a single species, Gideonmantellia amosanjuanae.

Griman Creek Formation

The Griman Creek Formation is a geological formation in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, Australia whose strata date back to the Albian to Cenomanian. Dinosaur remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from the formation.


Iguanodontia (the iguanodonts) is a clade of herbivorous dinosaurs that lived from the Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous. Some members include Camptosaurus, Dryosaurus, Iguanodon, Tenontosaurus, and the hadrosaurids or "duck-billed dinosaurs". Iguanodontians were one of the first groups of dinosaurs to be found. They are among the best known of the dinosaurs, and were among the most diverse and widespread herbivorous dinosaur groups of the Cretaceous period.


Jaxartosaurus is a genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur similar to Corythosaurus which lived during the Late Cretaceous. Its fossils were found in Kazakhstan.


Muttaburra is a town and locality in the Barcaldine Region, Queensland, Australia. In the 2016 census, Muttaburra had a population of 88 people.


Ornithopods () or members of the clade Ornithopoda ( or ) are a group of ornithischian dinosaurs that started out as small, bipedal running grazers, and grew in size and numbers until they became one of the most successful groups of herbivores in the Cretaceous world, and dominated the North American landscape. Their major evolutionary advantage was the progressive development of a chewing apparatus that became the most sophisticated ever developed by a non-avian dinosaur, rivaling that of modern mammals such as the domestic cow. They reached their apex in the duck-bills (hadrosaurs), before they were wiped out by the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event along with all other non-avian dinosaurs. Members are known from all seven continents, though they are generally rare in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ralph Molnar

Ralph E. Molnar is a paleontologist who had been Curator of Mammals at the Queensland Museum and more recently associated with the Museum of Northern Arizona. He is also a research associate at the Texas natural Science Centre. He co-authored descriptions of the dinosaurs Muttaburrasaurus, Kakuru, Minmi and Ozraptor, as well as the mammal Steropodon.


Rhabdodontidae is a family of herbivorous ornithopod dinosaurs that first appeared during the late Barremian of Spain, 129.4–125.0 million years ago, in the middle of the Lower Cretaceous. With their deep skulls and jaws, Rhabdodontids were similar to large, robust iguanodonts. The family was first proposed by David B. Weishampel and colleagues in 2003. Rhabdodontid fossils have been mainly found in Europe in formations dating to the Late Cretaceous.

The defining characteristics of the clade Rhabdodontidae include the spade-shape of the teeth, the presence of three or more premaxillary teeth, the distinct difference between the two maxillary and dentary teeth ridge patterns, and the uniquely shaped femur, humerus, and ulna. Members of Rhabdodontidae have an adult body length of 1.6 to 6.0 meters.


Rhabdodontomorpha is a clade of basal iguanodont dinosaurs. This group was named in 2016 in the context of the description, based on Spanish findings, of an early member of the Rhabdodontidae. A cladistic analysis was conducted in which it was found that Muttaburrasaurus was the sister species of the Rhabdodontidae sensu Weishampel. Therefore, Paul-Emile Dieudonné, Thierry Tortosa, Fidel Torcida Fernández-Baldor, José Ignacio Canudo and Ignacio Díaz-Martínez defined Rhabdodontomorpha as a nodal clade: the group consisting of the last common ancestor of Rhabdodon priscus Matheron, 1869 and Muttaburrasaurus langdoni Bartholomai and Molnar, 1981; and all its descendants. Within the clade are included also Zalmoxes and Mochlodon.The group consists of small to large plant eaters from Europe and Gondwana. It must have split from other iguanodont groups during the Middle Jurassic.


Tyrannosauripus is an ichnogenus of dinosaur footprint. It was discovered by geologist Charles "Chuck" Pillmore in 1983 and formally described by Martin Lockley and Adrian Hunt in 1994. This fossil footprint from northern New Mexico is 86 cm long and given its Late Cretaceous age (about 66 million years old), it very likely belonged to the giant theropod dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex. Similar tridactyl dinosaur tracks in North America were discovered earlier, but they were later recognized as hadrosaurid tracks. In 2007, large tyrannosaurid track was found also in eastern Montana (Hell Creek Formation). In 2016, a probable fossil trackway of Tyrannosaurus was discovered in Wyoming (Lance Formation).

Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs is a six-part documentary television miniseries created by Tim Haines and produced by BBC Natural History Unit. The series first aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom in 1999 with narration by Kenneth Branagh. The series was subsequently aired in North America on the Discovery Channel in 2000, with Avery Brooks replacing Branagh. The programme explores ancient life of the Mesozoic Era, portraying dinosaurs and their contemporaries in the style of a traditional nature documentary.

Developed by Haines and producer Jasper James, Walking with Dinosaurs recreated extinct species through the combined use of computer-generated imagery and animatronics that were incorporated with live action footage shot at various locations. The Guinness Book of World Records reported that the series was the most expensive documentary series per minute ever produced. A re-edited version of Walking with Dinosaurs aired on Discovery Kids for the first season of Prehistoric Planet. It was made more appropriate for children by removing most of the graphic content and trimming down some footage to fit the run time.

The series received critical acclaim, winning two BAFTA Awards, three Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award in 2000. Walking with Dinosaurs began a franchise that was followed by two additional miniseries, several television specials, spin-offs, a live-theatrical show, and a feature film of the same name.


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