Scientists from the University of New England have revealed that fossils from an underground opal mine near Lightning Ridge, include remains from a herd of dinosaurs, among them a new dinosaur species and the world's most complete "opalised dinosaur".
For UNE palaeontologist Phillip Bell, it was an exciting discovery.
"I started my passion with dinosaurs looking at illustrations in my big brothers books," Dr Bell said.
"As a five year old I told my kindergarten teacher that I was going to be a palaeontologist," he said.
he Lightning Ridge area has opal but also 100 million old dinosaur bones.
The new dinosaur has been named Fostoria dhimbangunmal in honour of opal miner Robert Foster, who discovered the fossils in the 1980s.
When he found the original bones and took them to the Museum of Science in Sydney in 1986. They were identified as "Fostoria" dinosaur bones.
Mr Foster later returned the bones to the Lightning Ridge Opal museum where the public had been viewing them.
Dr Bell approached Mr Foster's family for permission to generate further research from the early discovery.
The bones remained unstudied until donated to the Australian Opal Centre by Robert's children Gregory and Joanne Foster in 2015, under the Federal Government's Cultural Gift Program.
The species name, dhimbangunmal (pronounced bim-baan goon-mal), means 'sheep yard' in the local Yuwaalaraay and Yuwaalayaay languages, in recognition of the Sheepyard locality where the bones were found.
These remains included, a herd of dinosaurs, among them a new dinosaur species and the world's most complete opalised dinosaur.
"A living breathing, animal interacting with its environment and other animals," Dr Bell said.
"I was stunned by the sheer number of bones found. We initially assumed it was a single skeleton, but when I started looking at some of the bones, I realised that we had four scapulae (shoulder blades) all from different sized animals," Dr Bell reported.
"There are about 60 opalised bones from one adult dinosaur, including part of the braincase, and bones from at least another three animals" said Dr Phil Bell.
In total, parts of four Fostoria skeletons were unearthed, ranging from small juveniles to larger animals that might have been five metres in length, prompting speculation they were part of a small herd or family.
"Fostoria has given us the most complete opalised dinosaur skeleton in the world.
Partial skeletons of extinct swimming reptiles have been found at other Australian opal fields, but for opalised dinosaurs palaeontologists generally have only a single bone or tooth, or in rare instances, a few bones.
"To recover dozens of bones from the one skeleton is a first,"Jenni Brammall, palaeontologist and special projects officer of the Australian Opal Centre, said.
Fostoria was a two-legged plant-eating iguanodontian dinosaur closely related to the famous Muttaburrasaurus from central Queensland, which was discovered in 1980.
The discovery comes on the back of the new small plant-eating dinosaur also from Lightning Ridge, Weewarrasaurus pobeni, which was named by Dr Bell and colleagues late last year.
"The rate of discovery is astounding. On average, there's at least one new dinosaur discovered around the world every week," Dr Bell said.
"With more palaeontologists and scientists looking further afield than ever before, it's an exciting time for dinosaur lovers everywhere, especially in Australia."