Dinosaur Walk

Dinosaur skull cast

At Melbourne Museum

Use this website to explore facts about the 17 skeletons of prehistoric animals on display in the exhibition.

The exhibition is an excellent teaching resources. Students can view a variety of skeletons from the side, inside and above. Touchable objects, immersive experiences and multimedia exhibits allow students to explore how these prehistoric animals moved, ate and survived in their changing environments.

This website can be used as a teaching resource before and after a school excursion to the exhibition.


Inostrancevia

Inostrancevia alexandri (in-os-tran-se-vee-a)

Quick Facts

  • Is named after Alexander Inostrantzev, a Russian geologist
  • The fossils of Inostranvecia were discovered in Russia.
  • Inostranvecia was 3 metres long
  • Inostranvecia was a carnivore.
  • Lived 253 million years ago, Late Permian
evolutionary timeline
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Mammal-like reptiles lived during the Palaeozoic.

Animal Group

Inostrancevia was a mammal-like reptile - a group of reptiles that lived before the dinosaurs which shared some features of reptiles as well as some features of mammals.

Description

During the Permian period, before the time of the first dinosaurs, the dominant land animals were the mammal-like reptiles. These were specialised reptiles, with some features of mammals.

Inostrancevia was one of the largest predators of its time. It had a deep skull, nostrils set high on its head and large, sabre-like canine teeth. Its back teeth were small and weak, but this didn’t matter because Inostrancevia didn’t chew its food. It could rip into its prey and swallow large chunks of meat, as its lower jaw was hinged to allow its mouth to open very wide. Inostrancevia had a semi-sprawling gait making it a more efficient runner than other reptiles of its time, but not as fast as modern predators such as lions.

Many of the mammal-like reptiles died out at the end of the Permian period, when more than 80% of all life on Earth became extinct. But some survived the extinction event, and some of those mammal-like reptiles eventually gave rise to modern mammals.

The Skeleton of Inostrancevia

Activity

 

Gallimimus

Gallimimus bullatus (gal-ee-my-mus) 

Ornithomimus, a close relative of Gallimimus

Quick Facts

  • Gallimimus means fowl mimic
  • Gallimimus was an omnivore
  • Gallimimus was 4–6 metres long
  • The fossils of Gallimimus were discovered in Mongolia
  • Lived 70–65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Gallimimus was a Theropod Dinosaur. They moved on two legs, most species were carnivorous with sharp teeth, some very fast runners. Include feathered dinosaurs and the ancestors of birds.

Other Theropods in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Just like birds, Gallimimus had a beak with no teeth. It was most likely an omnivore, which means it ate both meat and plants — whatever it could get hold of. Today there are many animals that are omnivores, for example, bears, foxes, ostriches and even humans!

Gallimimus had flexible arms equipped with long fingers and claws. These were useful for the many different tasks of an omnivorous lifestyle, such as getting fruit, catching and holding prey, and digging dirt to find food.

Gallimimus was clearly a fast runner. Its leg proportions were similar to other fast runners, such as ostriches, horses and deer. Running fast would have been an important part of its survival, for catching prey and for fleeing predators such as Tarbosaurus, which lived at the same time and place. The popular science-fiction film Jurassic Park shows the probable predator–prey relationship of these two dinosaurs, with a flock of Gallimimus being chased by a large tyrannosaur.

Dinosaur skull cast.
P 206978
Gallimimus bullatus on display

Activity

Download the Gallimimus colouring fact sheet (PDF, 550KB)

Deinonychus

Deinonychus antirrhopus (die-non-eye-cus)

Quick Facts

  • Name means terrible claw
  • Deinonychus was a carnivore.
  • Deinonychus was 3–4 metres long
  • The fossils of Deinonychus were discovered in the USA
  • Lived 118–110 million years ago in the Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

 Animal Group

Deinonychus was a Theropod Dinosaur. They moved on two legs, most species were carnivorous with sharp teeth, some very fast runners. Include feathered dinosaurs and the ancestors of birds.

Other Theropods in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Deinonychus was a small predatory dinosaur, with keen eyesight and a well-developed sense of balance. It had a long, stiff tail with a ball joint at its base that enabled tail movement. This allowed Deinonychus to maintain its balance when attacking prey.

The name Deinonychus means ‘terrible claw’, and on the second toe of each foot was a large sickle-like claw that was held away from the ground when the animal was walking or running. When Deinonychus attacked, the claw was brought down, slashing into the flesh of its prey by kicking, disembowelling its victim. Its arms and ‘hands’ would have been used to tackle and hold onto prey; its powerful jaws and backward-sloping serrated teeth used to tear off large chunks of meat. Many other theropods relied on using their teeth and neck muscles to despatch their prey, whereas Deinonychus fought like a karate fighter, using its hands and feet as well as its teeth.

Deinonychus has helped to change the way we think about dinosaurs. People used to think dinosaurs were sluggish creatures, until a palaeontologist named John Ostrom studied the skeleton of Deinonychus. Ostrom’s discoveries led to the idea that dinosaurs could be sleek, fast-moving and agile predators.

The link between dinosaurs and birds

Tarbosaurus

Tarbosaurus bataar (tar-bo-sore-us)

Quick Facts

  • Name means alarming lizard
  • Tarbosaurus was a carnivore
  • Tarbosaurus was 8 metres
  • The fossils of Tarbosaurus were discovered in Mongolia
  • Lived 70–65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Tarbosaurus was a Theropod Dinosaur. They moved on two legs, most species were carnivorous with sharp teeth, some very fast runners. Include feathered dinosaurs and the ancestors of birds.

Other Theropods in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Tarbosaurus was a large carnivorous theropod dinosaur from Mongolia. Like its close North American relative, Tyrannosaurus rex, it had a very large head and powerful jaws, but was not top heavy as its huge skull was comparatively thin and light, with large air pockets. Many of its bones were hollow, making them strong but light, so they did not add excessive weight to this large predator.

Like all tyrannosaurs, Tarbosaurus had very short arms — so short that they could not even reach its own mouth. This puzzled palaeontologists, but it is now thought that the expression ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ may explain this. Many other theropods took prey of differing sizes, so they still needed arms to grasp and manipulate their lunch. The tyrannosaurs concentrated on the big stuff! They could overcome their prey with their enormous jaws, teeth and neck muscles. Imagine a giant cookie-cutter mounted on a battering ram. This method of attack could take out a cubic metre of flesh from its prey, allowing Tarbosaurus to sit back and wait until its prey died from blood loss.

Although tyrannosaurs were accomplished hunters, life was still tough for them. Many skeletons have been found with evidence of the broken bones that have healed during the life of the animal.

The specimen exhibited at Melbourne Museum is a cast from a fossil skeleton of a teenage Tarbosaurus — the animal was not fully grown when it died.

Tyrannosaurid dinosaur cast on display in gallery.
P 206970
Tarbosaurus bataar on display in Dinosaur Walk

What made Tarbosaurus a successful killer? 

Activity

Hadrosaur

(had-row-sore)

Images depicts Edmontosaurus the likely genus of the hadrosaur fossil on display at Melbourne Museum

Quick Facts

  • Name means bulky lizard
  • Hadrosaur was a herbivore.
  • Hadrosaur was 12 metres
  • The fossils of Hadrosaur were discovered in Canada
  • Lived 70–65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Hadrosaurs were ornithopods. They mostly moved on two legs, although larger species probably walked and browsed on all fours. Had a horny beak for picking off plants and very effective teeth for chewing.

Other Ornithopod Dinosaurs

Description

Hadrosaur, a member of the family hadrosauridae — a duck-billed dinosaur.

Hadrosaurs were the most advanced members of a group of dinosaurs called ornithopods. All ornithopods had a beak at the front of their jaws to strip plants with and teeth for chewing. Hadrosaurs took chewing to a new level, having evolved a ‘battery’ of teeth — as many as six rows, each containing 45 to 60 teeth that acted like huge files for grinding coarse plant material. These teeth were constantly replenished by new teeth growing from below. Ornithopods also had cheeks that enabled them to chew without losing much food.

Hadrosaur locomotion was unusual, in that they moved on all four legs when foraging and walking slowly, but ran on their long hind legs with their bodies held horizontally when speed was required.

More is known about hadrosaurs than just about any other prehistoric animal. As well as complete fossilised skeletons of recently hatched, juvenile and adult animals, scientists have found mummified bodies, skin impressions, stomach contents, coprolites, footprints, eggs and nesting sites and possibly some internal organs.

The fossil on display at Melbourne Museum is still embedded in the sandstone in which it was found. Palaeontologists use the skull to identify hadrosaur species. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure of the identity of the specimen, as it is missing its head. It is probably Edmontosaurus.

Brown rock with textured impression on surface.
P 207269.1
Detail of the Hadrosuar fossil on display in Dinosaur Walk

The Hadrosaur Fossils

Activity

Tsintaosaurus

Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus (sin-tow-saw-rus)

Quick Facts

  • Name means Tsintao lizard
  • Tsintaosaurus was a herbivore.
  • Tsintaosaurus was 10 metres
  • The fossils of Tsintaosaurus were discovered in China
  • Lived 83–71 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Tsintaosaurus was a ornithopod. Ornithopods mostly moved on two legs, although larger species probably walked and browsed on all fours. Had a horny beak for picking off plants and very effective teeth for chewing.

Other Ornithopod Dinosaurs

Description

Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus — a chewing machine

Tsintaosaurus was a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, found in China. Like all hadrosaurs it had a toothless ‘bill’ and a massive battery of grinding teeth that were replaced as they wore down. This was important, as Tsintaosaurus would have eaten a variety of tough foliage, such as conifers and cycads. Tsintaosaurus was able to move on two or four legs, and generally browsed on plants closer to the ground than high in trees.

Many hadrosaurs had elaborate crests on their heads, and Tsintaosaurus seems to have been no exception. Palaeontologists have puzzled over its unusual forward-pointing ‘horn’ for years. The discoverer of the species in the 1950s described the protrusion as a ‘nasal tube’, but later researchers thought the fossilisation process might have distorted the skull. They suggested that Tsintaosaurus may have had a backward-pointing horn, like the related Saurolophus, or not have had a ‘horn’ at all. Current thinking has accepted the presence of the horn, although it is thought that it wasn’t used to produce bellowing or honking sounds, as the horn is not hollow like that of some hadrosaur crests.

Activity

Hypsilophodon

Hypsilophodon foxii (hip-see-loff-o-don)

Quick Facts

  • Name means high-ridged tooth
  • Hypsilophodon was a herbivore.
  • Hypsilophodon was 1–2 metres long
  • The fossils of Hypsilophodon were discovered in England
  • Lived 136–112 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Hypsilophodon was a ornithopod. Ornithopods mostly moved on two legs, although larger species probably walked and browsed on all fours. Had a horny beak for picking off plants and very effective teeth for chewing.

Other Ornithopod Dinosaurs

Description

Hypsilophodon foxii — a vegetarian sprinter

Animals similar to Hypsilophodon appeared early in the history of dinosaurs and persisted until the last dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. They were small, fast-running herbivorous dinosaurs, related to the larger hadrosaurs and Iguanodonts. Hypsilophodon lived in Europe, but fossils of similar animals are known from every continent, including Antarctica and Australia.

Hypsilophodon ran on its long hind legs, with its body held horizontal. Its long tail accounted for half its body length and was stiffened by bony tendons. It is presumed that this helped to hold the tail off the ground while it was running. Recent research suggests that these tendons aided the efficiency of Hypsilophodon when running.

Hypsilophodon, like other ornithopods, had a small beak, broad chiselled teeth that formed a continuous cutting edge, and cheek pouches for storing food for a short time while it was chewed.

Early palaeontologists thought that it looked like a tree kangaroo, and for a period thought that it may have perched in trees. These ideas have now been discounted and Hypsilophodon is thought to have lived very successfully on the ground as a small, fast sprinter.

Activity

Mamenchisaurus

Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis (mah-men-chee-sore-us)

Quick Facts

  • Name means high-ridged tooth
  • Mamenchisaurus was a herbivore.
  • Mamenchisaurus was 25 metres long
  • The fossils of Mamenchisaurus were discovered in China
  • Lived 145–160 million years ago in the Late Jurassic
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Mamenchisaurus was a Sauropod. They had Large four legged herbivores with small heads, teeth shaped for cropping plants, long necks and roomy bodies for digesting plant food.

Other Sauropod Dinosaurs

Description

Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis — a long-necked sauropod

Mamenchisaurus was a giant sauropod with a very long neck — amongst the longest of any animal that has ever lived. Measuring up to 11 metres, the neck was almost half the overall length of the animal. Its long neck and its tail were held in position by a series of ligaments anchored at the hip — a bit like a suspension bridge. Mamenchisaurus would have walked with its stiff neck held almost horizontal. All the vertebrae of its neck, body and tail were hollow and light, while its leg bones were quite solid. This kept its centre of gravity low, which helped the animal maintain its balance.

Like all sauropods, Mamenchisaurus was a plant-eater. Its spoon-shaped teeth were not for chewing, but were used like a rake to strip leaves off plants. These were swallowed into its huge vat-like stomach. Its long neck allowed it to reach food otherwise inaccessible to an animal with such a huge body.

Mamenchisaurus, like all herbivores, would have had to eat continuously to get enough nutrition to sustain its massive body.

Detail of sauropod skull model.
P 206977
Mamenchisaurus on display in Dinosaur Walk

What can we learn from Dinosaur eggs

Activity

Amargasaurus

Amargasaurus cazaui (a-marg-a-sore-us)

Quick Facts

  • Name means La Amarga
  • Amargasaurus was a herbivore.
  • Amargasaurus was 10 metres long
  • The fossils of Amargasaurus were discovered in Argentina
  • Lived 130–112 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Amargasaurus was a Sauropod. They had Large four legged herbivores with small heads, teeth shaped for cropping plants, long necks and roomy bodies for digesting plant food.

Other Sauropod Dinosaurs

Description

Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis — a long-necked sauropod

Mamenchisaurus was a giant sauropod with a very long neck — amongst the longest of any animal that has ever lived. Measuring up to 11 metres, the neck was almost half the overall length of the animal. Its long neck and its tail were held in position by a series of ligaments anchored at the hip — a bit like a suspension bridge. Mamenchisaurus would have walked with its stiff neck held almost horizontal. All the vertebrae of its neck, body and tail were hollow and light, while its leg bones were quite solid. This kept its centre of gravity low, which helped the animal maintain its balance.

Like all sauropods, Mamenchisaurus was a plant-eater. Its spoon-shaped teeth were not for chewing, but were used like a rake to strip leaves off plants. These were swallowed into its huge vat-like stomach. Its long neck allowed it to reach food otherwise inaccessible to an animal with such a huge body.

Mamenchisaurus, like all herbivores, would have had to eat continuously to get enough nutrition to sustain its massive body.

Four dinosaur eggs.
P 229229
Sauropod dinosaur eggs fossil on display in Dinosaur Walk

What can we learn from Dinosaur eggs

Activity

Talarurus

Talarurus plicatospineus (tal-uh-roor-us)

Quick Facts

  • Name means Basket tail
  • Talarurus was a herbivore.
  • Talarurus was 5 metres long
  • The fossils of Talarurus were discovered in Mongolia
  • Lived 99–89 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Talarurus was belong to the Armoured Dinosaurs and Frilled Dinosaurs. They were four-legged herbivorous dinosaurs with armour plated skin or bony frills.

Other Armoured Dinosaurs and Frilled Dinosaurs

Description

Talarurus plicatospineus — an armoured dinosaur

Talarurus was an ankylosaur dinosaur, known from several fossils unearthed in Mongolia in the 1950s. Ankylosaurs were the most heavily armoured dinosaurs, and Talarurus was one of the best equipped of these. Its back and sides were entirely covered with thick bony plates that had short protruding spikes. These spikes had a corrugated appearance, and were even on its cheeks and the back of its head.

Talarurus was a herbivore. It had a beak-like snout to nip off plant material and small teeth at the back of its mouth, which suggests that it swallowed rather than chewed its food.

The most potent form of active defence available to Talarurus was its tail. This was armoured, held rigid by stiff tendons and had a club of fused bones at its end. Strong muscles at the base of the tail would have allowed it to be swung with great force at an attacker such as Tarbosaurus, aided by the animal’s ability to swivel quickly. Talarurus may not have been able to run fast, but it could spin quickly and wallop its attacker with its tail!

Activity

Protoceratops

Protoceratops andrewsi (pro-toe-ser-a-tops)

Quick Facts

  • Name means first horned face
  • Protoceratops was a herbivore.
  • Protoceratops was 2 metres long
  • The fossils of Protoceratops were discovered in Mongolia
  • Lived 85–70 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Protoceratops was belong to the Armoured Dinosaurs and Frilled Dinosaurs. They were four-legged herbivorous dinosaurs with armour plated skin or bony frills.

Other Armoured Dinosaurs and Frilled Dinosaurs

Description

Protoceratops andrewsi — a dinosaur with a frill.

Protoceratops was a ceratopsian dinosaur, a horned and frilled dinosaur, and a relative of the much larger, three-horned Triceratops. Protoceratops was about the size of a sheep and was without horns, although it did have a frill on the back of its head. This may have been larger in males than females, and possibly played a part in courtship. It may have also been useful in enabling animals to recognise their own species and in establishing social dominance within a herd.

Hundreds of Protoceratops fossils have been collected in Central Asia in recent decades. It seems likely that the animals lived in large groups and congregated on the edges of lakes and rivers, where floods and droughts would have occasionally caused large numbers to die. The fossils include nests and eggs, recently hatched young, teenagers, and male and female adults. As a result, a great deal is known about the life stages of Protoceratops, and how the animal changed as it matured. For example, it is known that the head of a young Protoceratops was quite large in comparison to the rest of its body, which is true of many modern animals, including humans!

Clues to Dinosaur Behaviour

Activity

Pteranodon

Pteranodon sternbergi (ter-ran-oh-don)

Image depicts Pteranodon longiceps, a close relative of Pteranodon sternbergi.

Quick Facts

  • Name means winged and toothless
  • Pteranodon was a carnivore.
  • Pteranodon had a 3 metre wingspan
  • The fossils of Pteranodon were discovered in USA
  • Lived 90–70 million years ago in the Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

 Animal Group

Pteranodon belonged to a group of animals called Pterosaurs. They were carnivorous flying reptiles with skin-covered wings.

Other Pterosaurs in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Pteranodon sternbergi — the flying fish eater

These large pterosaurs had a short tail, a long neck and skull, and a small body that palaeontologists think was partly covered with hair. Palaeontologists think that they mainly ate fish, although it is not clear how they caught them. Pteranodon fossils have been found in areas that would once have been wetlands and coastal lagoons, several with fossilised fish in their stomachs. Pteranodon had good balance and eyesight. It could probably swim, and would have made ‘belly landings’ on the water, holding its wings high to avoid damage.

A striking feature of this species was its large skull with a bony crest. The purpose of this crest is unknown, as aeronautical engineers have rejected the previous theories that it was a rudder or an air brake. The crest seems to have developed with maturity and was larger in males than females, which indicates it may have featured in mating displays. The Pteranodon on display at Melbourne Museum is a female specimen, demonstrating the smaller bony head crest than that of the male of this species.

Activity

Quetzalcoatlus

Quetzalcoatlus northropi (ket-sal-co-atil-us)

Quick Facts

  • Named after Aztec feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl
  • Quetzalcoatlus was a carnivore.
  • Quetzalcoatlus had a 12 metre wingspan
  • The fossils of Quetzalcoatlus were discovered in USA
  • Lived 70–65 million years ago in the Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Quetzalcoatlus belonged to a group of animals called Pterosaurs. They were carnivorous flying reptiles with skin-covered wings.

Other Pterosaurs in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Quetzalcoatlus northropi — the largest flyer

This enormous pterosaur, or flying reptile, may have been the largest flying animal ever. Fragmentary fossils found in North America indicate that it had extremely thin but strong bones, a long toothless jaw and a long stiff neck. Its body was quite small, but provided an anchor for its huge leathery wings, which stretched from a very long fourth finger to the top of its leg. Its 12-metre wingspan would have enabled it to soar and glide over long distances, while its keen eyesight would have meant that it could locate food from high in the sky.

Some pterosaurs were skim feeders, some plucked fish from the sea while flying and others still were waders, using their long jaws to extract crustaceans from mudflats. But there is evidence that Quetzalcoatlus was different from other pterosaurs. It’s unlikely to have been a skim feeder, as its fossils have not been found in coastal areas and its jaw was probably not strong enough to skim feed. It is also unlikely to have been a wader, as it had padded feet rather than the wide feet of a wader, and probably walked on all fours. Recent evidence suggests that Quetzalcoatlus may have had feeding habits a bit like those of modern storks, combining scavenging for carrion, with preying on small animals, such as small dinosaurs.

Large pterosaur hanging from museum gallery ceiling.
P 229346
Quetzalcoatlus on display in Dinosaur Walk

Activity

Anhanguera

Anhanguera blittersdorffi (ann-yang-wear-ah)

Image depicts Ornithocheirus, a larger relative of Anhanguera.

Quick Facts

  • Name means old devil
  • Anhanguera was a carnivore.
  • Anhanguera had a 4 metre wingspan
  • The fossils of Anhanguera were discovered in Brazil
  • Lived 112–99 million years ago in the Cretaceous
simple evolutionary diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs lived during the Mesozoic.

Animal Group

Anhanguera belonged to a group of animals called Pterosaurs. They were carnivorous flying reptiles with skin-covered wings.

Other Pterosaurs in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Anhanguera blittersdorffi — an expert flyer

Anhanguera was a fish eating pterosaur. Palaeontologists who have studied the fossils of Anhanguera have discovered a great deal about its flying ability. To take off, it would have run into the wind on its hind legs, with its large leathery wings folded; once it gained sufficient speed, it would have leapt into the air and spread its wings. Anhanguera had thin, light bones, which would have kept its weight low — an important feature for a flyer. It had a keeled sternum, like birds, which meant it would have had flight muscles, important for flapping its wings. Its wings could tilt to provide lift when taking off and act as a brake when landing.

Anhanguera had long sturdy jaws, with a crest on top of its snout. This feature may have provided stability as Anhanguera snatched fish from the sea as it skimmed the surface. It would then have used its small needle-like teeth to ensure its catch didn’t fall out of its mouth during flight. This was important because Anhanguerapointed its head at an angle towards the ground during flight.

Large pterosaur hanging from museum gallery ceiling.
P 229465
Anhanguera on display in Dinosaur Walk

Activity

Megalania

Varanus (Megalania) priscus (meg-ar-lane-ee-ar)

Quick Facts

  • Name means great roamer
  • Megalania was a carnivore.
  • Megalania was 5.5 metres long
  • The fossils of Megalania were discovered on the Darling Downs in Queensland
  • Lived 1.8 million to 40 000 years ago in the Pleistocene
Simple Evolutionary Diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Megafauna lived during the Cenozoic.

Animal Group

Megalania belonged to a group of animals called Megafauna. They were big land animals that evolved millions of years after the dinosaurs and included mammals, birds and reptiles.

Other Megafauna in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Varanus (Megalania) priscus — an extinct giant lizard

Megalania was the largest land lizard ever to live in Australia and possibly the world. It is closely related to modern goannas, but much larger. Its maximum length was approximately 5.5 metres, its weight about 600 kilograms, so it was twice the length of the Komodo Dragon. Megalania was so similar to goannas that palaeontologists have changed its scientific name to Varanus, the scientific name for the modern goannas. Recent research shows that Megalania was also venomous.

Megalania was the largest carnivore to have lived in Australia during the last two million years, but was probably less common than the predatory marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex. It would have ambushed its prey, which possibly included the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon optatum, and then torn it to pieces using its very large claws and serrated curved teeth. Megalania probably also scavenged for food, feasting on dead animals it located with its keen sense of smell.

Megalania most likely lived in grassland and open woodland, although some scientists think it may have been partially aquatic. Incomplete fossil skeletons have been found in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, particularly in the Darling Downs. It became extinct before the peak of the last Ice Age (18,000 years ago), when Australia was becoming drier and Megalania’s prey less numerous. 

Genyornis

Genyornis newtoni (jen-ee-or-nis)

Quick Facts

  • Name means jaw bird
  • Genyornis was an omnivore.
  • Genyornis was 2 metres high
  • The fossils of Genyornis were discovered in south-eastern Australia
  • Lived 1.8 million to 40 000 years ago in the Pleistocene
Simple Evolutionary Diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Megafauna lived during the Cenozoic.

Animal Group

Genyornis belonged to a group of animals called Megafauna. They were big land animals that evolved millions of years after the dinosaurs and included mammals, birds and reptiles.

Other Megafauna in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Genyornis newtoni — a giant ‘thunder bird’

Genyornis was a large flightless bird, considerably taller and heavier than the modern ostrich or emu. It had powerful legs and tiny wings, and probably most closely resembled its living relatives, ducks and geese. But instead of having webbed feet and a duckbill, Genyornis had large hoof-like claws on its toes and a big beak, with which it ate fruit and nuts, and perhaps small prey. Like modern birds, it had no teeth, but relied on gizzard stones to assist its digestion.

Genyornis lived in the dry grasslands and woodlands of southern and eastern Australia. Fossils have been found in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, especially on the surface of the dry Lake Callabonna. The bones of a number of birds have been found in one place, suggesting that they lived in flocks. Fossil eggs and footprints have also been found.

Genyornis was the last of the dromornithids, and was small compared to other species. This family of giant birds is known by a variety of names, including ‘thunder birds’, ‘demon ducks’ and ‘mihirungs’. Humans almost certainly lived alongside these birds, and some scientists think that hunting may have contributed to their extinction. Other scientists think the extinction of Australian megafauna was linked to the continent becoming drier during the last Ice Age.

Studying Megafauna fossils

Activity

Diprotodon

Diprotodon optatum (di-pro-toe-don)

Quick Facts

  • Name means two forward teeth
  • Diprotodon was a was a herbivore
  • Diprotodon was 3 metres long
  • The fossils of Diprotodon were discovered at Lake Callabonna, South Australia
  • Lived 1.8 million to 40 000 years ago in the Pleistocene
Simple Evolutionary Diagram
This evolutionary timeline shows the relationships between animal groups. Megafauna lived during the Cenozoic.

Animal Group

Diprotodon belonged to a group of animals called Megafauna. They were big land animals that evolved millions of years after the dinosaurs and included mammals, birds and reptiles.

Other Megafauna in Dinosaur Walk

Description

Diprotodon optatum — a giant marsupial

Diprotodon optatum has the distinction of being the largest marsupial ever. Although related to the wombat and koala, Diprotodon was more like a rhinoceros in size. It was three metres long, almost two metres high at the shoulder and weighed as much as two tonnes. It had pillar-like legs, broad footpads (a little like those of an elephant) and strong claws on its front feet, probably for digging up roots. It was not a particularly handsome animal — its feet were turned inward so it had a pigeon-toed appearance, it had a massive skull and two large upper front teeth!

Diprotodon lived in open woodland and scrubland in family groups of up to a dozen animals. It was quite widespread, and almost certainly shared the continent for a period with the humans. Its large size would have enabled it to survive on the coarse vegetation of inland Australia and travel further in search of water. Diprotodon seems to have become extinct around 45,000 years ago.

Study Megafauna fossils

Activity

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