In a remote corner of their sheep and cattle farm in Australia, Robyn and Stuart Mackenzie stumbled upon what they thought were massive black rocks back in 2006. Little did they know that this serendipitous encounter would lead to the discovery of a colossal dinosaur, now known as Australotitan cooperensis or The Southern Titan. After over a decade of excavation and careful analysis, researchers have classified this gigantic creature as a new species, making it the largest dinosaur ever unearthed in Australia and one of the biggest in the world. Here’s the captivating tale of the farmers and their dino discovery.
The Southern Titan
Cooper, affectionately nicknamed so by researchers, is a titanosaur, a long-necked herbivorous sauropod dinosaur that roamed the Earth during the late Jurassic Epoch to the end of the Cretaceous period. Although other titanosaurs were previously found in Australia, Cooper’s colossal size sets it apart. Estimated to weigh a staggering 70 tons, standing two stories tall, and measuring between 82 to 98 feet in length, this massive creature is comparable to the size of a basketball court. The bones’ remote location, fragile condition, and immense size made the process painstaking and required a decade of meticulous work. Paleontologists used 3-D scans to study the fragile bones without risking damage. Geological dating of the sediments surrounding the fossils revealed Cooper’s age and hinted at its mysterious demise.
From Farmers to Paleontologists
The Mackenzie family’s involvement in this monumental discovery began when their 14-year-old son, Sandy, first found dinosaur bones on their property in 2004. Today, Robyn Mackenzie is a field paleontologist and co-author of a research paper about Australotitan cooperensis. Along with the Eromanga community, the family established the Eromanga Natural History Museum, which has seen a significant increase in visitors, thanks to Cooper’s bones and other discoveries. The Mackenzies continue to unearth new bones on their land, possibly belonging to another undiscovered dinosaur species.