Australia’s Kimberley Dinosaurs have the world’s largest known footprints.

News of the world’s largest dinosaur footprints, located in the Kimberley became public on this day -March 28, 2017. The gigantic sauropod footprints measuring up to 1.7 metres top the previous record of 1.06 metres found in Mongolia.

Tracks of Walmadanyichnus hunteri and hypothetical size silhouettes. Photo from University of Queensland – The Dinosaurian Ichnofauna of the Lower Cretaceous

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Kimberley dinosaurs form part of the Dreamtime

The Goolarabooloo People have always known of the footprints as they are form part of Indigenous Song Lines. The footprints are part of a song cycle extending along the coast and inland for 450 km. The prints belong to, and trace the journey of Marala, a Dreamtime Emu man. According to Dreamtime Lore, Marala was the Lawgiver. He gave country the rules to follow, how to behave and how to keep things in balance. Marala’s emu-like form persists today as a shadow of dark nebulae running virtually the length of the Milky Way, his head (the Coalsack) near Jina (eagle’s claw prints; the Southern Cross) and his neck along Gwuraarra (naala, or ‘hitting stick’; the Pointers). Marala is known by different names in different language groups.

More information in the book Kimberley Dreaming to Diamonds.

The Milky Way, where Marala resides. Photo credit. Adam Ussing

Partnership between University and local Custodians

University of Queensland vertebrate palaeontologist Steve Salisbury, working with the Goolarabooloo People, has been mapping the footprints. Some footprints are so large they are only recognisable from the air, while others are only visible at low tide. The footprints are located in an area known for massive tides, making identification and recording an arduous task.

The only record of non-avian dinosaurs

The area was a large river delta 130 million years ago, with dinosaurs crossing wet sandy areas between surrounding forests. The diversity of the tracks is globally unparalleled. forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of Australia. The tracks also provide the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period.

Footprints from the air. University of Queensland photo.

Stegosaurs once roamed here

Twenty-one specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs have been identified. This includes five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armoured dinosaurs. Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia.

Tracks and hypothetical silhouette assigned to Garbina roeorum. Photo from University of Queensland.

Most dinosaur fossils discovered in Australia are located on the eastern side of the continent, and are between 115 and 90 million years old. The tracks at Walmadan near Broome, estimated at 130 million years, are considerably older.

More information about dinosaur tracks in the Kimberley

The Walmadany Dinosaur area is now protected by a National Heritage listing. The Dinosaur Coast Management Group (DCMG) is a not-for-profit organisation, formed in 2015 to protect and promote the dinosaur tracks of the Dampier Peninsula and to educate the public about their cultural and scientific importance. DCMG is proud to be working with Traditional Owners from across the Kimberley, and scientists from The University of Queensland to ensure plans and activities are culturally sensitive and scientifically valid.

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Resources.

Kimberley Atlas and Guide

Kimberley Map

Kimberley Digital Map

The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life

What is Aboriginal Art