Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dinosaur Cove, in Victoria, Australia is a major fossil-bearing site in south-east Australia, where the Otway ranges meet the sea to the west of Cape Otway. The inaccessible ocean-front cliffs include fossil-bearing strata that date about 106 million years ago (MYA).
During the Early Cretaceous the location was a flood plain within a great rift valley that formed as Australia tore northward from Antarctica. Sand, mud and silt deposits covered and sometimes preserved the remains of dead animals and plants. As the rift valley sank, the deposits were buried by up to three kilometres of sediment, which turned to rock under pressure. In the last 30 million years the sediments have been uplifted to form the Otway and Strzeleki ranges, bringing them near the surface again.
In a geologically similar location in Victoria, the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered in Australia was uncovered in 1903, when the geologist William Hamilton Ferguson was mapping the rocky coastal outcrops.
Heavy mining equipment and dynamite was required to blast away overlying strata to uncover the fossiliferous rock layers in the cliff face.
In the 1980s and 90s Dinosaur Cove yielded such hypsilophodontids as Leaellynasaura amicagraphica and Atlascopcosaurus loadsi, and a Coelurosaur, as well as fragments of what may be a Caenagnathid (relatives of the Oviraptors). These Australian species, the "polar dinosaurs of Australia", apparently had keen night vision and were warm-blooded, enabling them to forage for food during long polar winter nights, at chilly temperatures.
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