Paleontologist reports discovery of carnivorous dinosaur tracks in Australia

October 19, 2007

The first fossil tracks belonging to large, carnivorous dinosaurs have been discovered in Victoria, Australia, by paleontologists from Emory University, Monash University and the Museum of Victoria (both in Melbourne). The tracks are especially significant for showing that large dinosaurs were living in a polar environment during the Cretaceous Period, when Australia was still joined to Antarctica and close to the South Pole.

The find is being reported today, Friday, Oct. 19, at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Austin, Texas, by Anthony Martin, senior lecturer in environmental studies at Emory. Martin researched the find with Patricia Vickers-Rich and Lesley Kool of Monash University and Thomas Rich of the Museum of Victoria.

The three separate dinosaur tracks are about 14 inches long, show at least two or three partial toes, and were likely made by large carnivorous dinosaurs (theropods) on river floodplains about 115 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. Based on track sizes, Martin estimates that these dinosaurs were 4.6 to 4.9 feet tall at the hip, large by human standards but about 20 percent smaller than Allosaurus, a large theropod from the Jurassic Period.

Martin found two of the tracks during a February 2006 visit with Rich to the "Dinosaur Dreaming" site, near the coastal town of Inverloch. Tyler Lamb, a Monash undergraduate student and volunteer at the dig site, found a third track in February 2007, having been alerted by Kool to look for them. Martin then confirmed its identity during a visit in July 2007. Other possible, partial dinosaur tracks have been found at the same site and another locality, but these have yet to be studied in detail.

Vickers-Rich and Rich have been studying the dinosaurs and mammals of Victoria for nearly 30 years. Lower Cretaceous strata of Victoria have yielded a sizeable amount of dinosaur skeletal material since the late 1970s, resulting in the best-documented polar dinosaur assemblage in the world. Until Martin's find in 2006, however, only one dinosaur track (from a small herbivorous dinosaur) had been documented.

"I think a lot more tracks are out there, but they've been too subtle to notice before now," Martin says. He and the other researchers say they are optimistic that additional tracks will be found, now that they have examples of the tracks to go by in their searches.

Source: Emory University

Explore further: Five things dung beetles do with a piece of poo

Related Stories

Five things dung beetles do with a piece of poo

September 18, 2015

Dung beetle behaviour has fascinated humans for thousands of years – including the ancient Egyptians, who incorrectly believed the beetles reproduced only from males. But Egyptian observations that the beetles' ball rolling ...

What are asteroids?

September 10, 2015

4.6 billion years ago, our solar system formed from a collection of gas and dust surrounding our nascent sun. While much of the gas and dust in this protoplanetary disk coalesced to form the planets, some of the debris was ...

Carnivourous dinosaurs strolled around in Germany

August 10, 2015

142 million years ago two carnivorous dinosaurs strolled along the beach in what is now Germany. Their footprints fossilized and have been analyzed by a biologist who now provides insight into the two hunters' daily life.

Recommended for you

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

Search for Egypt's Nefertiti gains new momentum (Update)

September 29, 2015

The search for ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti in an alleged hidden chamber in King Tut's tomb gained new momentum as Egypt's Antiquities Minister said Tuesday he is now more convinced a queen's tomb may lay hidden behind ...

New finds of a living fossil

October 2, 2015

The coelacanth fish, found today in the Indian Ocean, is often called a 'living fossil' because its last ancestors existed about 70 million years ago and it has survived into the present - but without leaving any fossil remains ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.