Ancient dinosaur tracks published in book

Staff reportersBroome Advertiser
Dr Anthony Romilio and Linda Pollard (UQ) creating a silicon cast of sauropod tracks in the Lower Cretaceous Broome Sandstone, Walmadany area, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia. Photo: Steven W. Salisbury.
Camera IconDr Anthony Romilio and Linda Pollard (UQ) creating a silicon cast of sauropod tracks in the Lower Cretaceous Broome Sandstone, Walmadany area, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia. Photo: Steven W. Salisbury. Credit: Steven W. Salisbury.

A team of palaeontologists has identified 21 different types of dinosaur tracks on a 25-kilometre stretch of the Kimberley’s Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed “Australia’s Jurassic Park” by the chief researcher.

Experts from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences have unveiled what they claim is the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world embedded in rock aged 127 to 140 million-years.

Lead author Dr Steve Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks around Walmadany (James Price Point) were globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti”.

“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.”

In 2008, the State Government selected James Price Point as the preferred site for a liquid natural gas processing plant.

Dr Salisbury said the surrounding political issues made the project “particularly intense”, and he was relieved when National Heritage listing was granted to the area in 2011 and the gas project collapsed in 2013.

“There are thousands of tracks around Walmadany. Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs,” he said.

“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.”

He said that among the tracks was the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia, including some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded with some of the sauropod footprints measuring 1.7 m long.

“Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent, and are between 115 and 90 million years old. The tracks in Broome are considerably older,” Dr Salisbury said.

The research has been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Theropod dinosaur tracks (right) of the Lower Cretaceous Broome Sandstone, Walmadany area, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia, alongside silhouettes of their potential trackmakers (right). From Salisbury et al (2017). Image: Anthony Romilio.
Camera IconTheropod dinosaur tracks (right) of the Lower Cretaceous Broome Sandstone, Walmadany area, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia, alongside silhouettes of their potential trackmakers (right). From Salisbury et al (2017). Image: Anthony Romilio. Credit: Anthony Romilio.

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