|A artist's impression of the ceratosaur hunting|
in what will become Melbourne
|The 125 million year old ankle bone|
In 2006, a bone fragment was unearthed by an amateur palaeontologist near the coastal town of San Remo, 87 kilometres from Melbourne. Just 6 centimeters in length, its identity was a mystery.
It was analysed by palaeontologist Erich Fitzgerald in 2012. Results showed that the bone fragment was in fact an ankle, 125 million years old. What is interesting is the creature it came from. The owner was a species of meat-eating dinosaur belonging to a group of reptilian predators known as the ceratosaurs.
'These meat-eating dinosaurs in Australia represent globe-trotting groups which spread out across the world before the continents began to separate' said Fitzgerald. 'We've got representatives of groups that are actually found everywhere else. We really have this melting pot where it was really a cosmopolitan bunch of dinosaurs which called Australia home 125 million years ago.'
While small, these creatures were highly succesful. Tough and able to find food in all environments, they quickly spread across the surface of the Earth. 'Until now, this group of dinosaurs has been strangely absent from Australia, but now at last we know they were here confirming their global distribution,' added Fitzgerald. As more discoveries are made, Mesozoic Australia will become clearer, and while the current picture is still limited, it is certainly improving.