March 27, 2017
Largest-ever dinosaur footprint found in real life Australian ‘Jurassic Park’
A remarkable 21 different kinds of dinosaur tracks have been identified along Australia's remote shoreline, researchers announced Monday.
Dubbing it Australia's Jurassic Park, paleontologists said it was the most varied such discovery on the planet. According to a report on the discovery published in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the tracks were discovered in rocks up to 140 million-years-old in Western Australia.
"It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia's dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period," Steve Salisbury, a paleontologist from the University of Queensland, told the Agence-France Presse. "Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia. There are also some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded."
Discovery Almost Lost to Energy Industry
The discovery was even more significant given the fact that the site was almost lost to the fossil fuel industry. As the proposal for the site was being discussed, the Goolarabooloo aboriginal people contacted researchers in order to save what they knew was there.
"We needed the world to see what was at stake," Goolarabooloo official Phillip Roe said.
The site was ultimately awarded National Heritage status in 2011, saving it from the fossil fuel project.
"There are thousands of tracks (in the area), “Salisbury said. “Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs.
"There were five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armored dinosaurs."
Salisbury noted to the BBC that indigenous people had long referred included the tracks in their oral history, most likely for thousands of years.
"They form part of a song cycle - they relate to a creation mythology, and specifically the tracks show the journey of a creation being called Marala - the emu man,” he said. "Wherever he went he left behind three-toed tracks that now we recognize as the tracks of meat-eating dinosaurs."
Image credit: Steven Salisbury