A set of 21 different forms of dinosaur tracks have been discovered in Western Australia, at the Dampier Peninsula coastline, a site known as “Australia’s Jurassic Park”. This finding constitutes the most diverse range of dinosaur tracks in the whole world. The paper is published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The dinosaur tracks were identified on a 25-kilometre region of the Dampier Peninsula coastline, in the Walmadany area. They were spotted by a team of paleontologists on rocks whose age ranges from 127 to 140 million years. Otherwise, dinosaur fossils from the eastern parts of Australia are much younger: between 90 and 115 million years of age.
Over 400 hours were spent in analysing and documenting the dinosaur tracks. This work was made possible after the Traditional Custodians of the Walmadany region, the Goolarabooloo people, contacted study’s lead author Dr Steve Salisbury, and his colleagues, with the aim of showing the world “what was at stake”, given that the area was chosen for a $40-billion liquid natural gas project back in 2008. However, it fell under the National Heritage listing in 2011, and the natural gas endeavour fell apart, to the relief of Dr Salisbury.
The researchers had to get past dangerous animals like sharks and crocodiles, and huge tides to reach the rocks. Dr Salisbury explains that the wide range of types of tracks represent an unprecedented worldwide discovery that makes the area around Walmadany the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”, the latter comprising the most massive terrestrial mammal migration—the findings allow us to look into Australia’s dinosaur variety during the Early Cretaceous Period for the first time. Furthermore, the study also gives primary evidence of non-avian dinosaurs in Western Australia.
“It’s such a magical place—Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting,” says Dr Salisbury.
The dinosaur tracks occur in thousands around Walmadany. 150 of them have been identified to have belonged to 21 specific types, making up 4 main groups of dinosaurs, explains the researcher.
“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 armoured dinosaurs,” says Dr Salisbury.
Furthermore, the team found the only confirmed proof for the existence of stegosaurs in Australia.
Yet another interesting discovery includes a group of the biggest dinosaur tracks ever documented: sauropod tracks making 1.7 metres in length.