The discovery of 80-centimeter dinosaur footprints puts Australia in the “big league” when it comes to discovering evidence of dinosaurs, says paleontologist Anthony Romilio.
- The traces were discovered in a coal mine in Queensland in the 1950s and 60s
- New research has shown that they are among the largest carnivorous theropods in Australia
- A paleontologist says he closes gaps in knowledge about Australia’s Jurassic period
“I’ve always wondered where Australia’s great predatory dinosaur is,” said Dr. Romilio.
Now he has found evidence to show that the creature was a Queenslander and a “badass”.
Dr. Romilio of the University of Queensland co-authored an article in Historical Biology that found Australia’s largest carnivorous dinosaur lived in the Jura.
“We saw the Tyrannosaurus Rex in North America and large predatory dinosaurs in Africa and South America,” he said.
“It turned out that ours was in Oakey and it was an evil dinosaur!
No bones about it
The discovery was made in old coal mines on the Darling Downs.
Instead of bones, there were footprints in stone, similar to the famous Stampede site in Lark Quarry in western Queensland.
“In this case, the underground miners dug for coal, an ancient Jura swamp vegetation that the dinosaurs would have walked on,” said Dr. Romilio.
The largest track is 80 cm long.
“It’s a big bird-like footprint,” said Dr. Ramilio.
“The name of the footprints is Kayentapus.
“It is a form that can be found in Africa and the USA and is usually a footprint from the Jurassic period.
“Other prints found in these places are small predatory dinosaurs [Anchisauripus]and Stegosaurus traces [Garbina]. “
Dr. Romilio said the traces were discovered in the 1950s and 60s.
“She was reported in newspapers at the time,” he said.
“But they had never been scientifically described and were kept in drawers for decades.”
Dr. Romilio said his investigations were based on museum specimens and archive photos.
“As paleontologists, we know that an animal only gets one skeleton, but it can leave a lot more footprints,” he said.
“Some are plaster casts made at the time of discovery, others are cut out of the sandstone ceiling of the mine.”
The “holy grail” for research in South Queensland is a skeleton.
“We really want some bones,” said Dr. Romilio.
“But for me, because I’m researching fossilized footprints, I’m really interested in additional footprints that the community out there could have.”
“If people have physical evidence, photos, or even an oral report, anything can be relevant.”
‘Wonderful’ supplement to the legal literature
Professor John Long from Flinders University said the results of the research paper were exciting.
“We found Australia’s largest carnivorous theropod dinosaurs,” he said.
“It’s certainly the size of these very large footprints.”
He said the results helped close gaps in knowledge about the types of dinosaurs that lived in Australia during the Jurassic period.
“We know very little about dinosaurs from this time in Australia for the entire continent, so this is a wonderful addition to the literature,” he said.
The Jurassic period is famous for the fact that dinosaurs peaked. Many examples have been found overseas.
“Something like that adds new information about what types of dinosaurs lived here and what the food chain was,” said Professor Long.
“It is almost certain that the dinosaurs that left these huge footprints in the mines in southern Queensland hunted beasts like Rhoetosaurus [discovered in Roma] as their main food.
“This makes Australia one of the big players when it comes to large dinosaurs.”
He said the lack of bones meant no lack of evidence.
“You can learn a lot from a footprint,” said Professor Long.
“We know how it went, whether it went. Traces and footprints give us an insight into the life of the animal and examine its behavior.”
And in the period between the discovery of the footprints and their identification, Professor Long had a simple explanation.
“We had very few paleontologists in Australia in the 1950s,” he said.
“I would say these prints were collected because they looked like interesting fossils and were then kept in the museum. We only recently had experts who looked at the footprints in detail.”