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Australia’s ‘Jurassic Park’ turns up some of the world’s largest dinosaur tracks

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Some sauropod tracks are around 5.6 feet long

Dinosaur tracks in the Walmadany area 
Damian Kelly

As many as 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified in a 16-mile stretch of remote coastline in Western Australia. The discovery is “unparalleled” in Australia and even the world, according to a study published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Scientists at the University of Queensland and James Cook University spent more than 400 hours analyzing thousands of dinosaur tracks from 2011 to 2016. These tracks are imprinted in rocks that are up to 140 million years old, and belong to many different types of dinosaurs. Some were found to belong to long-necked, plant-eating sauropods, others to two-legged ornithopods. The tracks also represent the only evidence that a type of armored dinosaur called stegosaurs lived in Australia. And some tracks are among the largest ever recorded, including sauropod tracks around 5.6 feet long.

Photo: Steven Salisbury

“It’s such a magical place — Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting,” lead author Steve Salisbury said in a statement.

In 2008, the Western Australian government selected Walmadany as the preferred site for a $40 billion liquid natural gas processing precinct, alarming the local Aboriginal custodians, the Goolarabooloo people. The Goolarabooloo alerted Salisbury and his team so they could start analyzing the tracks. “We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo official Phillip Roe said in a statement. In 2011, the area was granted the National Heritage listing and in 2013, the gas project was halted.

The tracks described in the study are important also because most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent; they are not as old, dating between 115 and 90 million years old. Salisbury called Walmadany the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti.”