I have a confession to make. Growing up, I never really cared that much for dinosaurs. The just didn’t hold the same sort of fascination for me that so many kids today seem to have for them. It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I saw dinosaurs as something students of all ages were interested in enough to try and incorporate into lessons. I went back and watched all of the Jurassic Park movies. I also separated all of my dinosaur-themed stamps. I don’t have a great number but I am always pleased when I find more (the one featured today was lurking on an envelope I received from Australia a couple of years back). Dinosaurs have so far been the topic of two articles on A Stamp A Day, both issuer profiles — an aquatic dinosaur for San Marino and a cartoon Stegosaurus for Uganda.
Muttaburrasaurus as seen on Scott #1346 of Australia was a genus of herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur, which lived in what is now northeastern Australia sometime between 112 and 99.6 million years ago during the early Cretaceous Period. It has been recovered in some analyses as a member of the iguanodontian family Rhabdodontidae. After Kunbarrasaurus, it is Australia’s most completely known dinosaur from skeletal remains. It was named after Muttaburra, the site in Queensland, Australia, where it was found.
Muttaburrasaurus was about 26 feet (8 meters) long and weighed around 3.1 short tons (2.8 metric tons). The femur of the holotype has a length of 40 inches (1,015 millimeters).
Whether Muttaburrasaurus is capable of quadrupedal movement has been debated; it was originally thought to be an “Iguanodontid”; thought recent studies indicate a rhabdodont position. Ornithopods this basal were incapable of quadrupedal movement. Originally reconstructing Muttaburrasaurus with a thumb spike, Molnar later doubted such a structure was present. The foot was long and broad, with four toes.
The skull of Muttaburrasaurus was rather flat, with a triangular cross-section when seen from above; the back of the head is broad but the snout pointed. The snout includes a strongly enlarged, hollow, upward-bulging nasal muzzle that might have been used to produce distinctive calls or for display purposes. However, as no fossilized nasal tissue has been found, this remains conjectural. This so-called bulla nasalis was shorter in the older Muttaburrasaurus sp., as is shown by the Dunluce Skull. The top section of the bulla of the holotype has not been preserved, but at least the second skull has a rounded profile.
The species was initially described from a partial skeleton found by grazier Doug Langdon in 1963 at Rosebery Downs Station beside Thomson River near Muttaburra, in the Australian state of Queensland, which also provides the creature’s generic name. The remains were collected by paleontologist Dr. Alan Bartholomai and entomologist Edward Dahms. After a lengthy preparation of the fossils, it was named in 1981 by Bartholomai and Ralph Molnar, who honored its discoverer with its specific name langdoni.
The holotype, specimen QM F6140, was found in the Mackunda Formation dating to the Albian-Cenomanian. It consists of a partial skeleton with skull and lower jaws. The underside of the skull and the back of the mandibula, numerous vertebrae, parts of the pelvis, and parts of the front and hind limbs have been preserved.
Some teeth have been discovered further north, near Hughenden, and south at Lightning Ridge, in northwestern New South Wales. At Lightning Ridge, there have been found opalized teeth and a scapula that may be from a Muttaburrasaurus. A skull, known as the “Dunluce Skull”, specimen QM F14921, was discovered by John Stewart-Moore and 14-year-old Robert Walker on Dunluce Station, between Hughenden and Richmond in 1987. It originates from somewhat older layers of the Allaru Mudstone and was considered by Molnar to be a separate, yet unnamed species, a Muttaburrasaurus sp. The same area produced two fragmentary skeletons in 1989. There have also been isolated teeth and bones found at Iona Station southeast of Hughenden.
Reconstructed skeleton casts of Muttaburrasaurus, sponsored by Kellogg Company, have been put on display at a number of museums, including the Queensland Museum, Flinders Discovery Centre and National Dinosaur Museum in Australia.
Muttaburrasaurus had very powerful jaws equipped with shearing teeth. Whereas in more derived euornithopod species the replacement teeth alternated with the previous tooth generation to form a tooth battery, in Muttaburrasaurus, they grew directly under them and only a single erupted generation was present, thus precluding a chewing motion. An additional basal trait was the lack of a primary ridge on the teeth sides, which show eleven lower ridges. In 1981 Molnar speculated that these qualities indicated an omnivorous diet, implying that Muttaburrasaurus occasionally ate carrion. In 1995 he changed his opinion, suspecting that Muttaburrasaurus‘s dental system is evolutionarily convergent with the ceratopsian system of shearing teeth. They would have been an adaptation for eating tough vegetation such as cycads.
On October 1, 1993, Australia Post released a set of six gummed stamps and a souvenir sheet picturing dinosaurs to promote National Stamp Collecting Month (Scott #1342-1347a). Four of the stamps were denominated at 45 cents; one of these was in a horizontal format and perforated 14 x 14½ while the other three were perforated 14½ x 14. The designs of two of the 45-cent stamps were also used for self-adhesive booklet stamps with die-cut perforations of 11½, the booklet pane containing five each of Scott #1348 and 1349. Scott #1346 and #1347 were sized 30 x 50 millimeters; the 75-cent denomination is perforated 14 x 14½ and features Muttaburrasaurus while the $1.05 value is horizontally-oriented and perforated 14½ x 14 (Scott #1347). The souvenir sheet includes all six of the gummed stamps perforated 14¼ (Scott #1347a). Additionally, the souvenir sheet received overprints for the Bangkok World Philatelic Exhibition held in Thailand from October 1-10, 1993 (Scott #1347b) and the Sydney Stamp & Coin Show from October 15-17, 1993 (Scott #1347c). The overprints were printed in the sheet margins using gold ink.
I have included illustrations of the various stamps of this issue and first day covers (note the Muttaburra, Queensland, postmarks) for illustrative purposes only. My collection at the moment is limited to Scott #1343 and #1347, both received on regular mail from Australia.