Qantassaurus (Qantas lizard)
Qantassaurus (Qantas lizard)
Named By : T. H. Rich & P. Vickers-Rich - 1999
Diet : Herbivore
Size : Estimated 1.8 meters long
Type of Dinosaur : Euornithopods
Type Species : Q. intrepidus (type)
Found in : Australia, Victoria - Wonthaggi Formation
When it Lived : Early Cretaceous, 115 million years ago
Qantassaurus is a genus consisting of a basal two-legged plant-eating elasmarian elasmarian dinosaur. It was discovered in Australia around 115 million years ago. Patricia Vickers Rich and Tom Rich described it in 1999, following a discovery near Inverloch. It was named after Qantas the Australian airline.
Qantassaurus measured approximately 1.8 meters (6 ft) in length and was about one meter (3 ft) high. It was likely to have resembled its relatives in having short legs and long shins. Its feet were equipped with claws to provide traction. A long tail, which was stiffened by ossified tendon, probably assisted in turning. The distinctive trochanters or spurs on the upper surface (or femur) of the thigh bone, where muscle was attached, are a characteristic of the “Polar Victorian”, euornithopods.
Only jaw fragments of Qantassaurus are known. These fragments are shorter than those of related species, so it is likely that its face was short and stocky. In each lower jaw, it had ten teeth. It was likely to have had a beak and had leaf-shaped teeth in its cheek. These teeth were eventually lost as they wore out and replaced with new ones growing from the jaw. There were eight distinct vertical ridges along the outer sides of the teeth, with one larger primary ridge at the centre.
Qantassaurus was alive 115 million years ago in Australia during the late Aptian/early Albian era of the early Cretaceous period. Australia was part the supercontinent Gondwana at the time. It was also partially within the Antarctic Circle. However, the significance of polar conditions during warm Cretaceous was very different to conditions today. It is not clear what the average temperature in the region is. Estimates range from -6 to well above 5 degrees Celsius (21 to 37 degrees F). The polar nights lasted for up to three months and conditions were most likely to be coldest.
One interpretation of fossil material is that small ornithopods were able to adapt to cooler environments. The bones of presumptive related taxa show that they were active throughout the year, and did not hibernate during winter. These bones suggest warm-bloodedness which would allow them to retain their body heat.
Qantassaurus was likely a browser. It grabbed ferns with its hands and fled from predators much like a modern gazelle.
Qantassaurus’ holotype was found on February 27, 1996 during the third annual field season of Dinosaur Dreaming, which was jointly managed by Monash University (Australia) and the National Museum of Victoria.  The dig was made at Flat Rocks, an intertidal area near Inverloch in southeastern Victoria. These rock outcrops are part of Wonthaggi Formation, which is part of the Strzelecki Group. They were formed during the Aptian stage in floodplains that had braided rivers channels. The holotype specimen NMV P199075 is a 56-millimetre long single left dentary from the lower jaw. It contains ten teeth, three of which are unruptured. Mrs Nicole Evered was a long-time participant in the dig. The species was also tentatively linked to two other jaws, NMV P198962, which is a left dentary and NMVP199087, which are right dentaries, both found at the same location in the same year.
In 1999, it was named Qantassaurus Intrepidus by Tom Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich in honour of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services. They shipped fossils all over the country as part the Great Russian Dinosaurs Exhibit, and also sponsored expeditions to South America and Eastern Europe. QANTAS is an acronym. This is why the u in Qantassaurus does not follow the letter q. Latin for “intrepid”, the specific name refers to the climate challenges that the small dinosaur had.