The decision of the Western Australian government that Walmadany will be the location for processing natural gas from the vast fields off the coast of northwest Australia has triggered huge campaign of aboriginal Goolarabooloo community to protect the site. Namely, they knew for giant dinosaur footprints and wanted to protect it from the gas project. They won the battle and brought experts from The University of Queensland to do research and documentary about location. The result is a comprehensive study with remarkable findings published in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Salisbury et al, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Australia’s Jurassic Park

In Australia’s Kimberley region at Walmadany lies treasury of prehistoric inhabitants’ footprints. When the tide is out, we can see along the coast thousands of 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints. These tracks are so diverse that it comes from at last 21 Cretaceous species, representing four main groups of dinosaurs: sauropod, theropod, ornithopod and thyreophoran. Among many footprints, one is singled out with its size of 1,75 meters. According to researchers, it belongs to “lizard-hipped” dinosaur – sauropod. It is the largest footprint that has so far discovered.

Sauropod’s footprint 1,75 meters long. Image credit: The University of Queensland/Vimeo

Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting, says one of the researchers, Dr. Salisbury. The magic of Walmadany area is not just in the size of tracks but in unique dinosaur fauna. For example, this is the first time that scientists managed to found evidence of stegosaurs presence during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period in Australia. Also, there are prints which appear to be from entirely unknown species. Given that most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils are between 115 and 90 million years old, these tracks are even more precious with its estimation of 130 million years old.

Dinosaur tracks in the Walmadany area. Credit: Damian Kelly

A team of paleontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences used drones to map the area with digital photography and laser scans. They recorded intertidal zone while footprints can still be seen before giant tides arise and floods back. The team also believes there are a lot of tracks under water.

After last year’s discovery of perfectly preserved dinosaur feathers in a middle of Myanmar market, revealing this Jurassic Park comes as an accidental encounter of prehistoric and today’s walkers of Western Australia coastline.