The bones of a huge-clawed predatory dinosaur have been discovered in Victoria.

Researchers have announced the discovery of several theropod bones, including a 20-centimetre-long hand claw, from the Otway Coast of Victoria.

The bones were found in the Eumeralla Formation, a geological deposit that is approximately 107 million years old.

Fossils of theropods — the group of dinosaurs that includes such famous predators as Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, as well as modern birds — are relatively rare in Australia.

The new Victorian specimens were discovered at a site known as ‘Eric the Red West’ on the Otway Coast between 2011 and 2017, by volunteers working on Dinosaur Dreaming team’s annual digs.

These digs are held each February and are coordinated by husband and wife paleontologists, Swinburne University’s Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich and Dr Thomas Rich from Museums Victoria.

Previously, the Eric the Red West site had produced the skeleton of Diluvicursor pickeringi, a unique species of ornithopod dinosaur that was described and named in 2018.

The new theropod fossils were found isolated rather than as part of a skeleton. This is because they were carried some distance from where the theropods died by ancient, deep, fast-flowing rivers.

These rivers snaked through the then-narrow rift valley (now Bass Strait) that opened as Australia and Tasmania separated during the Early Cretaceous period, more than 110 million years ago.

Dr Poropat says the presence of megaraptorid theropods in Victoria that are nearly indistinguishable from Australovenator – but older than it by around ten million years – is unusual.

Australovenator lived around ten million years after – and thousands of kilometres further north than – the Victorian megaraptorid. This suggests that megaraptorid theropods roamed over a large part of Australia and for a long period of time.

“The similarities between the Victorian megaraptorid remains and Australovenator are striking,” Dr Poropat says.

“If we had found these theropod bones in Queensland, we would probably have called them Australovenator wintonensis. But they’re from Victoria, which prompts the question: ‘Could one dinosaur species exist for more than ten million years, across eastern Australia?’ Maybe.”

The new theropod bones are held at Melbourne Museum. Another field trip to the Eric the Red West site is planned for November 2019. Dr Poropat hopes that more megaraptorid bones might yet be found there.

A paper describing the new fossils is accessible here.