New species: 'Lightning Claw' dinosaur discovered in Australia

"I immediately recognised this fossil was something new," said lead researcher Phil Bell.
By Brooks Hays   |   Sept. 14, 2015 at 12:16 PM
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LIGHTNING RIDGE, Australia, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Australia's New South Wales is one of the few places in the world where blue dinosaur fossils are found. The bones, having been mineralized by opal, sport a dull blue tinge. Some are marked by reflective flecks of the brilliant blue and green mineral.

Recently, researchers identified a collection of opalised fossils as belonging to a previously unknown species of megaraptorid dinosaur. The raptor-like specimen was dubbed Lightning Claw for its large, razor-sharp claws and for the town the fossils were found near.

At 23 feet in length, the species is the largest carnivorous dinosaur to be discovered in Australia. Scientists dated the fossils at 110 million years old, suggesting Lightning Claw roamed the continent during the Early Cretaceous period -- when Australia was part of a supercontinent called Gondwana, combining Antarctica, South America, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and India.

The bones were discovered in the 1990s, but went unidentified for two-plus decades. A team of researchers from Italy and Australia decided to reexamine them. They found a specimen worthy of a new name and classification.

"I immediately recognised this fossil was something new," Phil Bell, a researcher at the University of New England, in Adelaide, said in a press release. "When I compared it to other Australian and South American dinosaurs, it was clear it was a megaraptorid which is relatively rare group of dinosaurs, mostly known from Argentina."

Bell is the lead author of a new paper on the discovery, published in the journal Gondwana Research.

"These results indicate that Australia's Cretaceous dinosaur fauna did not comprise simply of immigrant taxa but was a source for complex two-way interchange between Australia-Antarctica-South America leading to the evolution of at least one group of apex predatory dinosaurs in Gondwana," researchers wrote in their paper.

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