Dino hunters’ ’remarkable’ find in outback
SCIENTISTS in Outback Queensland have revealed an amazing series of gigantic dinosaur footprints preserved in a creek bed for almost 100 million years.
Palaeontologists from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum at Winton made the stunning discovery, which features footprints of several dinosaurs, including a sauropod print more than a metre across.
The discovery, made last year but only verified in recent days, is expected to spark a new wave of interest in Winton's dino-focused tourism industry and gives fresh hope to a region still coming to terms with the devastating Queensland floods.
It comes more than 40 years after discovery of the dinosaur 'stampede' at nearby Lark Quarry.
The newly-discovered tracks, preserved in a rock shelf at the bottom of a small creek, extend 55 metres and cover an area equivalent to the size of two basketball courts.
Footprints include 20 tracks made by a large sauropod dinosaur, other prints made by chicken-sized theropod dinosaurs and the trampled tracks of other sauropods.
Vegetarians noted for their long tails and necks, sauropods can grow up to 18 metres in length and weigh up to 30 tonnes.
Palaeontologist Dr Stephen Poropat of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has led the Age of Dinosaurs research team's excavation and said the tracks were in extraordinary condition.
"That these fine details are so well preserved after 95 million years is remarkable," he said.
"These footprints are the best of their kind in Australia and their shape can be distinguished from all known sauropod footprints worldwide."
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the discovery would give the whole region a tremendous boost.
"This is an amazing discovery and a great way to kick off the Year of Outback Tourism," she said.
"These tracks will create international exposure for Winton which will have a significant impact on the outback tourism economy.
"We know the people of Winton are doing it tough at the moment. But discoveries like this will boost the tourism industry and help the outback economy recover from the recent monsoon."
So far, only 25 per cent of the site has been relocated to the Age of Dinosaurs facility.
Executive chairman David Elliott is hopeful the attraction, named March of the Titanosaurs, will be open to the public from May 2020.
SAUROPOD (lizard foot)
■Overarching name given to several species of herbivorous dinosaurs, known for long necks and tails and small heads.
■ Lived in an era from 200 to 60 million years ago.
■The largest of the dinosaur species, some grew to almost 40m in length and weighed up to 100 tonnes.
■ The footprints from Winton are believed to belong to a sauropod measuring about 18m long and weighing 30 tonnes.