A group of researchers has found a set of dinosaur footprints on the beaches of the Kimberley region located in Western Australia. More than 21 samples were discovered in a study that analyzed more than 16 miles of coastline. The study was published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The study shows that the discovered footprints are now the widest and diverse assemblage ever found. Even the study leader and paleontologist at the University of Queensland, Steve Salisbury, dubbed the reviewed place as “Australia’s own Jurassic Park.”
This place was once a damp and fostered place in which many different dinosaurs lived, but that was more than 100 million years ago, and it has converted in a hot and rugged coastline after being affected by asteroid impacts and sea level variations through centuries. Even after all those changes, the dinosaurs’ footprints remained there for investigators to found them.
“The tracks provide a snapshot, a census if you will, of an extremely diverse dinosaur fauna,” Salisbury told Gizmodo. “Twenty-one different types of dinosaurs all living together at the same time in the same area. We have never seen this level of diversity before, anywhere in the world. It’s the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti! And it’s written in stone.”
What did researchers found?
A team of experts from the University of Queensland and James Cook University analyzed rocks from the Lower Cretaceous period, that is to say, more than 140 million of years ago. They spent more than 400 hours in the field studying the ground in a period between 2011 and 2016.
The most diverse assemblage of dinosaur footprints showed that there had been many specimens in that area. Among the discovered species were the herbivorous and long-necked sauropods, the two-legged ornithopods, famous for dominating its entire species in the North American area, and the armored Stegosaurus which only have shown presence through fossils in the United States and Portugal.
The ornithopods left three-toed tracks on the ground while stegosaurus printed tulip-shaped marks on the ground. The Australian “Jurassic Park” is called Walmadany by the indigenous tribes that live in the zone. The Goolarabooloo people, the hosts for the investigators and experts, are one of the only Aboriginal communities in the country that have negotiated with the government to build towns, as they signed the Goolarabooloo Millibinyarri Layout Plan in 2005.
World’s biggest dinosaur footprint: Bathtub-sized
One of the most remarkable findings, according to the study authors, has to do with the discovery of the world’s biggest dinosaur footprint ever found. The team discovered a 5-feet-9-inches (1.75 meters) in length mark that allegedly belongs to a sauropod specimen.
Salisbury told Gizmodo that preliminary hypothesis pointed to the sauropod species, also acknowledging the fact that sauropod fossils are present in all continents except Antarctica. The footprint of this specimen, known for their extremely long necks of more than 50 feet, amazed investigators by its size. However, the researchers wrote in the study that even more astonishing that the finding of this impressive track, was the variety of the samples found at the Walmadany region.
Not only the enormous footprint and the range of the specimens are the only facts that make this discovery so important. Historically, the only fossils or dinosaur marks found in Australia were always located in eastern zones until these latest discoveries. Salisbury qualified the studied area as “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti,” given the importance of its paleontologic content.
The Goolarabooloo community called Salisbury’s team for analysis
Back in 2008, the Australian government decided to convert the Kimberley region into a liquid natural gas processing precinct valued in more than $40 billion. This news alerted the local aboriginals and custodians of the region, the Goolarabooloo community. They were the ones who contacted the Salisbury team and asked for them to got the area and study its grounds before the government took over the place.
The Goolarabooloo official, Philip Roe, wrote in a statement that they “needed the world to see what was at stake.” This community has been aware of the existence of the tracks for centuries even when the markings are visible at low tide only, Salisbury told BBC. These tracks have been featured into the aboriginals’ oral histories and are sacred for their culture.
“They relate to a creation mythology, and specifically the tracks show the journey of a creation being called Marala — the emu man. Wherever he went he left behind three-toed tracks that now we recognize as the tracks of meat-eating dinosaurs,” Salisbury stated.
This region was categorized as natural heritage by the government in 2011, and even the liquid natural gas project was halted two years later.
Source: Taylor & Francis Online