75CFDA33-4183-4D54-9393-81C6E28FAAD9 Created with sketchtool. A Slice of Dinosaur Life in Footprints

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  Last updated March 29, 2017 at 9:45 am

Palaeontologists have described the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world.

The footprints break several records. The size of the site is the largest known stretching for over 200 km along the coast of the Kimberley Region in Western Australia. It is the most diverse collection of dinosaur footprints ever recorded with up to 21 species of dinosaur represented. And the largest single footprint ever recorded, a 1.7 m whopper, is also presented in this report.

The earliest records of dinosaur footprints in the area date back to 1936 but many of the tracks form parts of song-lines for the local indigenous people so awareness of them stretches back many thousands of years. They appear in rock dated between 127 to 140 million-years-old.

The recent publication lead by Dr Steve Salisbury from the University of Queensland came at the request of the Goolarabooloo people who are the traditional custodians of the trackways. In the late 2000s the area was earmarked for development as a gas export hub and the Goolarabooloo wanted the fossils suitably documented by science. Between 2011 to 2016 Dr Salisbury and his team spent over 400 hours mapping and recording the footprints and trackways using drones and other modern technologies. While the dinosaur tracks are known to extend for over 200 km along the coast, this report looked at just 25 km of coast around the Yanijarri–Lurujarri section of the Dampier Peninsula which includes an area known as Walmadany (also known as James Price Point).

Of the up to 21 species identified by their footprints, only two have been previously described by science. They represent a broad range of dinosaurs including the long-necks (sauropods), the meat-eating dinosaurs (theropods), two-legged plant eaters (ornithopods) and armoured dinosaurs. The latter includes fossil evidence of stegosaurs in Australia.

L-R: Science Reporter Abbie Thomas sitting inside a footprint from a sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur near Broome, WA. Theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur footprints near Broome, WA.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” Dr Salisbury said.

“It’s such a magical place—Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting.”

‘Australia’s Jurassic Park’ the world’s most diverse from The University of Queensland on Vimeo

Lead author Dr Steve Salisbury of The University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences discusses the diversity of tracks around Walmadany in Western Australia.

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About the Author

Paul Willis
Paul is a respected leader in the science community with an impressive career in science. He has a background in vertebrate palaeontology, studying the fossils of crocodiles and other reptiles. He also has a long history as a science communicator, with a career spanning as Director of The Royal Institution of Australia, presenter and host for Australia’s Science Channel, working for the ABC on TV programs such as Catalyst and Quantum as well as radio and online. He’s written books and articles on dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and is finding new ways to engage the people of Australia with the science that underpins their world. Follow him on Twitter @fossilcrox.


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