Thousands of dinosaur footprints found in the Walmadany Area near Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia have been analysed and studied by a team of scientists from the University of Queensland.
The results, which have been published online, have shone some light on the country’s past ecosystem. These particular dinosaur footprints are estimated to be over 127 million years old, and some of them are the largest ever recorded.
The traditional custodians of the land, the Goolarbooloo people contacted the University of Queensland after it became known that the Western Australian government was keen on using the area where the footprints were situated as a location for a new natural gas processing plant. Led by Dr Steve Salisbury, the team of scientists went on location to records and document as much as possible from the prints, their results were eye-opening.
Their estimated age made them the oldest dinosaur prints found in Australia, and the only ones on the country’s west coast; until now, footprints had only been found on the east coast, and were several million years younger than their counterparts. Further analysis of the prints themselves led to the identification of the dinosaurs that made them, with scientists believing they belong to 21 different species from the Cretaceous period.
Additionally, some of the footprints were confirmed as being the largest ever found, coming in at over 1.7 meters (5’6” feet) long. On top of this, the thousands of footprints were confirmed to be the largest collection in the world. Dr Salisbury explained in a statement just how important the prints are for scientists:
“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period. It’s such a magical place –Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting.”
When the news began to break about the momentous find in Western Australia, and its’ scientific importance, many became apprehensive at the government’s plans of destroying the site to build a new natural gas processing plant. This led to a major environmental campaign being set up to protect the site from the local government’s development. The campaign quickly grew in size and became one of the country’s largest, and eventually defeated the government’s proposal, saving the priceless and irreplaceable slice of history cemented into the Western Australian ground.