A dinosaur skeleton dating to the time of the dinosaurs is in a New Zealand museum’s collection.
The bones of the 130-million-year-old dinosaur are thought to be among the earliest known fossil remains found in the New Zealand fossil beds, according to a new study.
The skeleton, believed to be from the early Cretaceous period, was found in a limestone quarry in the Taranaki region in 2011 and had been previously excavated by researchers from the University of Auckland.
The remains were kept in the museum until now.
It is hoped the fossil, dubbed Cassini 2, will become a major tourist attraction, and the university’s research team is currently working on a programme to catalogue the bones.
The researchers are also hoping to excavate a number of other fossils in the same area, which may also help in cataloguing the dinosaur’s ancestry.
It is estimated that the dinosaurs that lived in the area around the Taranea volcanic complex around the end of the Cretacian period were roughly the size of a small to medium-sized pig.
“Our initial assessment is that Cassini was probably a small-bodied member of a group that was a little bigger than a medium-size pig,” said the lead researcher of the research, Professor Neil Cassidy from the Institute of Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology at the University’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
“We have not been able to verify this until now, but we think it may well be.”
Cassini 2 was discovered in 2011, after it was excavated in the North Island’s Taranakiri limestone quarry.
Cassini was found by scientists in 2009, when they were studying a collection of limestone rocks at a quarry in Christchurch.
The team had been excavating a cave-like structure that they hoped to use as a laboratory for studying the fossils of early dinosaurs.
But in 2011 they were shocked to discover that Cassi 2 had not been found.
They were hoping to collect the skeleton for a PhD thesis.
Professor Cassidy said he had been working on the project for about a year and that the discovery of Cassini 1 was a huge shock.
“When we first saw it we were very shocked, because it was so new,” he said.
“I remember thinking, ‘I am not going to be able to do a thesis on this specimen, this is the most unexpected thing I have ever seen’.”
The researchers were able to recover the skeleton from the limestone quarry, and it was transferred to the University for further study.
Cassidy said they hoped that the skeleton would become a popular tourist attraction in the future, and that it would be used by students to research the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in the South Island.
“A lot of students go to Taranapu on their studies, and they are looking for fossils of extinct dinosaurs,” he explained.
“So it’s a fantastic opportunity for students to come to Tarangana, the largest city in New Zealand, and see dinosaurs that they would not normally be able go to.”
Cassini is the first of these specimens to have been collected in New York.
It will be a huge help to New Zealand in terms of understanding the origins of the ancient world.
“The research has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.