Broome dinosaur footprints detail substrate deformation unique on Earth

Nov 09, 2012 by Geoff Vivian
“For that reason it is not known whether similar patterns of substrate deformation might occur at sauropod track-sites elsewhere in the world.”—Dr Thulborn. Credit: Lin Padgham

Two recent papers by palaeontologists working north of Broome highlight a new approach to the study of dinosaur footprints.

A previous, more taxonomic, approach to dinosaur ichnology focused on the collection and study of "museum grade" which were used to identify and some of the individual dinosaur's physiological characteristics, such as size and mass.

Studies of the Broome dinosaur track way by palaeontologists McCrea, Lockley et al (2011), and Thulborn (2012), point to an emerging trend, the study of dinosaur interactions.

"Even poorly preserved prints can be useful for census purposes and for analysing foot/sediment interactions," says Indiana-Purdue University palaeontologist Prof James O. Farlow in his peer-review of the McCrea paper.

The Broome trackway was once an early Cretaceous shoreline, frequented by at least 15 dinosaur species that regularly walked in the moist intertidal sands and estuarine mud.

When conditions were right these solidified into sandstone, preserving footprints for posterity along much of the Dampier Peninsula's west coast.

The sandstone would then often be covered by further layers of sand on which , in turn, would leave more tracks.

As a result the Broome sandstone often comprises several layers of sediment, each containing underprints or "ghost prints".

"The patterns of deformation created by sauropods traversing thinly-stratified lagoonal deposits of the Broome Sandstone are unprecedented in their extent and structural complexity," Dr Thulborn says in his paper.

"The stacks of transmitted reliefs … beneath individual footfalls are nested into a hierarchy of deeper and more inclusive basins and troughs which eventually attain the size of minor tectonic features.

"Ultimately the sauropod trackmakers deformed the substrate to such an extent that they remodelled the topography of the landscape they inhabited.

"Such patterns of substrate deformation are revealed by investigating fragmentary and eroded footprints, not by the conventional search for pristine footprints on intact bedding planes.

"For that reason it is not known whether similar patterns of substrate deformation might occur at track-sites elsewhere in the world."

Queensland University Dr Steve Salisbury says the Broome sandstone is about 200 kilometres long and contains Australia's most important dinosaur track way, the next most important being at Lark Quarry in Queensland.

The latter is about the size of a tennis court with tracks of only two or three dinosaur species preserved.

Dr Salisbury has written a new paper on the Broome dinosaur trackway which is currently subject to peer review.

Explore further: Changing dinosaur tracks spurs novel approach

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists discover first dinosaur trail in Victoria

Aug 10, 2011

Two sandstone blocks discovered by palaeontologists have provided the most extensive evidence of dinosaur footprints in Victoria. Found at Melanesia Beach, near Cape Otway, they represent 85 per cent of the ...

British boy spots dinosaur tracks

Feb 24, 2008

An 8-year-old boy found a pair of 160-million-year-old dinosaur tracks on the beach near his home in England, it was reported.

Dino footprints enter record books

Oct 06, 2009

French researchers on Tuesday said they had uncovered the biggest dinosaur footprints in the world, left by giant sauropods that may have weighed 40 tonnes or more.

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

16 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

16 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...