In Australia's 'Jurassic Park,' World's Largest Dino Prints

21 different types of tracks found Down Under—some 6 feet long
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2017 1:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – Twenty-one is the lucky number for paleontologists in Australia: That's the "globally unparalleled" number of different varieties of dinosaur prints they appear to have found in a "magical place" they call the country's own "Jurassic Park," per Phys.org. In a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists from the University of Queensland and James Cook University report on their findings along the northwestern Dampier Peninsula, just north of Broome, with more than 400 hours of work turning up six types each of sauropods and armored dinosaur tracks, five kinds of tracks from predatory dinosaurs, and four from ornithopods. They're said to be the biggest prints ever found—ABC Australia notes some sauropod tracks are as long as 6 feet—and include the "only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs" on the continent.

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Ironically, because some of the prints were so huge, researchers think they may not have been recognized as tracks. Industry nearly put the discovery in peril: In 2008, the regional government picked out the area to serve as a natural gas processing site, a move that received pushback from members of the aboriginal Goolarabooloo community, who say the tracks form a "songline" that document how a "creator-being" named Marala once traversed the landscape. The area was eventually deemed a National Heritage site in 2011 and the gas project was nixed. Steven Salisbury, lead author of the study, says most dinosaur fossils have turned up on the eastern side of Australia and were up to 115 million years old, a press release notes. These new prints were found in rocks dating up to 140 million years ago. (See one of the "saddest" dinosaur fossils ever unearthed.)

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