Wednesday 16 August 2017

World's biggest dinosaur footprints found in 'Australia's Jurassic Park'

Dr Anthony Romilio and Linda Pollard creating a silicon cast of sauropod tracks in Walmadany Credit: Steven Salisbury/ University of Queensland
Dr Anthony Romilio and Linda Pollard creating a silicon cast of sauropod tracks in Walmadany Credit: Steven Salisbury/ University of Queensland

Chiara Palazzo

Scientists have published details of the world's biggest dinosaur footprints found in what has been dubbed "Australia’s Jurassic Park".

A team of paleontologists identified an unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks, including the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia, on a 25-kilometre stretch of a remote coastline north of Broome.

"Nowhere else has as many different types of dinosaurs represented by tracks than Walmadany [James Price Point] has," said Dr Steve Salisbury, the lead author of the study, using the name given to the area by its traditional owners.

"It’s such a magical place, Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting," said Dr Salisbury.

The topotype track of Hunter’s mark of Walmadany Credit: Damian Kelly/ University of Queensland
The topotype track of Hunter’s mark of Walmadany Credit: Damian Kelly/ University of Queensland

Sauropod prints measuring a staggering 1.7 metres were among the traces uncovered by the scientists in the remote Kimberley region in the north of Western Australia.

A footprint measuring 106cm in length unearthed last year in Mongolia was believed to be among the biggest ever recorded.

Dr Salisbury explained to ABC news that a footprint measuring 1.7m would indicate animals that are "probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip, which is enormous."

"These animals did exist. They were out there and we're seeing evidence of them having existed in the Kimberley 130 million years ago based on these tracks," he told ABC News.

The tracks are "considerably older" than the majority of dinosaur fossils discovered on the east coast of Australia, which are between 115 and 90 million years old, Dr Salisbury explained.

"Everything we have figured out from the cretaceous comes from that time slice.

"Broome and Walmadany come from 130 million years ago, from a completely unknown period of time in so far as dinosaur fossils go from elsewhere.

"So it really does fill in an important gap in the dinosaur fossils record in Australia."

The research, by paleontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. 

Telegraph.co.uk

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