Scientists discover species of dinosaur the size of a turkey

An artist's impression of Diluvicursor pickeringi foraging on the bank of a river in the Australian-Antarctic rift valley.

Story highlights

  • The discovery tells more about how Australia and Antarctica were once connected
  • Diluvicursor pickeringi was roughly the size of a turkey, but its tail would have made it about 7½ feet

(CNN)Scientists have discovered a species of dinosaur that roamed between Australia and Antarctica 113 million years ago.

The discovery of Diluvicursor pickeringi, published Thursday in the biological and medical journal Peer J, tells us more about how Australia and Antarctica were once connected and the different kinds of dinosaurs that lived there.
    "Skeletons of dinosaurs from Australia are very rare," Matthew Herne, the lead paleontologist on the study, wrote in an email. This discovery shows for the first time that there were at least two closely related dinosaur species living in southeastern Australia.
      So what did D. pickeringi look like when it was alive?
      This dinosaur was roughly the size of a turkey, Herne said, although its tail would have made it a lot longer, at around 7½ feet. It probably munched on things like leaves, pine nuts, mosses and possibly fruits. It was also a runner, evident from its long foot bones.
      The partial skeleton of Diluvicursor pickeringi preserves most of the tail along with the right ankle and foot.
      D. pickeringi is actually a close relative of a dinosaur named Leaellynasaura, Herne explained. Though both had small bodies, used two legs to walk and ate plants, they had some notable differences. Leaellynasaura had an extraordinarily long tail, but D. pickeringi's tail was much shorter.
        Now that we know there were at least two distinct types of dinosaurs in this part of Australia, Herne said it raises questions about how wide those differences were. Future research will look at variations in characteristics such as what the dinosaurs ate and how fast each could run.
        Herne said scientists don't know what wiped out D. pickeringi, but he speculated that this dinosaur could have been washed into a river during a flood. The fossil itself was found in 2005 by volunteer George Caspar, buried deep at the base of a powerful river, along with tree stumps, logs and branches.
        The late David Pickering near where the fossil of Diluvicursor pickeringi was discovered.