Gemstone turns into an unknown dinosaur’s fossil
Unearthing a lovely opal is typically a prize. Find out that your gemstone is in fact an opalized fossil of a million-year-old dinosaur, previously undiscovered, and it is invaluable. Precious stones found from Australia’s opal fields were not only opal fossils but the opal fossils of a dinosaur unknown to palaeontology.
The weewarrasaurus was named for the opal field Wee Warra near Lightning Ridge tiny country city, where it was found, and Mike Poben the opal buyer gave specimens to scientific expertise.
The species existed over 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous when the Desert was a lush green area of the Lightning Ridge.
In the Australian state of New South Wales, it is also the first new dinosaur species in over a century to be identified.
Weewarrasaurus was only found with his lower jaw but his teeth were untouched — and that was able to show a lot. It wasn’t a big dinosaur at the start, about the size of a medium dog..
Palaeontologist Phil Bell, of the University of New England in Australia, has established that it is a species of tiny bipedal ornithopod that comprises Iguanodon and Parasaurolophus and has its teeth and form in its jaw.
Lightning Ridge is a fossil hotspot in Australia. Once upon a time, there was a lush country on the edge of the Eromanga Sea, a massive inland sea that spanned across the Australian continent. In the mud, which would transform to a sandstone over thousands and millions of years, the formerly plentiful persists life that populated the region would frequently be preserved.
This is a worldwide process. This is visible. But something else occurred in Australia. The acidity in the drying sandstone has grown as the inland sea starts to vanish 100 million years ago. This freed silica from the rock, which was gathered in hole and pocket — for example, from the bones left behind.
As the degree of acidity eventually dropped, these pockets were cemented into opal, and old remains perfectly sparkling. None of the globes has done this opaque like Lightning Ridge so abundantly.
And this is what Poben discovered, who, as John Pickrell relates to National Geographic, came upon the opalised jawbone in a rough bag of opals acquired from miners.
Thus, Poben brought Bell his find.
“I recall the specimen Mike showed me and my mouth fell. It was so gorgeous,” recalled Bell, “I had to try and conceal my enthusiasm.
However, it’s not only lovely. Bell and his colleagues remark in their study that while in Australia, Muttaburrasaurus and one presently being investigated appear to have had just one or two great ornithopods, in the lesser variations it seems to have been considerably richer.
On the basis of fossils recovered at Lightning Ridge, the rich flora may have been flourishing with tiny ornithopods and four more species in the southeast of Victoria. In the northeastern state of Queensland, only one tiny species has been discovered.
This is quite different from America, in which lesser herbivores should have competed with giants like Triceratops and Alamosaurus for food.
Thus fossils like Weewarrasaurus are much more than a beautiful face – they may help us understand the differences in dinosaur biodiversity and how variety can occur throughout the planet.
At now, Bell and his team work hard to characterise additional opal fossil fuels – a difficult effort as they are generally found in shattered mining spoils.
In the meanwhile, the Lightning Ridge Australian Opal Centre, among its spectacular collection of opalyzed fossils, is home to Weewarrasaurus.