Walking with Dinosaurs Down at the Beach

Surprise Discovery of Dinosaur Tracks At Tourist Hot Spot

Fossilised footprints of a large Theropod dinosaur have been discovered at one of Australia’s most popular tourist beaches.  Broome’s Cable Beach is a very popular tourist area and hundreds of people visit this beautiful part of the Western Australian coast every day.  However, the pristine white sands hide a secret, it overlies a series of Cretaceous rock exposures where plant fossils and occasionally dinosaur footprints can be found.

One of the Three-Toed Dinosaur Prints Found at Cable Beach

Dinosaur footprint at Cable Beach (Western Australia).

One of the three-toed dinosaur tracks at Cable Beach.

Picture Credit: ABC Kimberley, Sophia O’Rourke

Ms Bindi Lee Porth was collecting shells at the beach last Sunday evening, when she literally stumbled across an amazing fossil find.  She noticed a strange shape in the rock and as she puts it herself:

“I just sort of brushed all the sand away and it’s revealed this beautiful, like a bird, foot.”

The Broome Coastline and Dinosaur Tracks

This part of the coast of Western Australia is renowned for its dinosaur tracks, that date from the Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago), a time when Australia was part of a much larger land mass (Gondwana) and it was nearer the South Pole.  Despite the high latitude, the climate was temperate to sub-tropical and many different kinds of dinosaurs roamed the land.

A Close Up of One of the Dinosaur Footprints

Dinosaur tracks found on beach.

A close up of one of the exposed dinosaur footprints.

Picture Credit: ABC Kimberley

Last year, Everything Dinosaur reported on efforts by University of Queensland researchers to map the extensive trackways using drones.

To read an article about this: Mapping the Dinosaur Heritage of Western Australia

The three-toed prints were exposed by the shifting sands, to have a set of tracks found so close to such a popular tourist location is quite a surprise and Ms Porth initially doubted what she had found, after all, casts of dinosaur footprints set in concrete have been created elsewhere along the coast in a bid to inform visitors about the ancient heritage of this part of Western Australia.  However, after having the trace fossils examined by Queensland University palaeontologist, Steve Salisbury, it was confirmed that these prints were genuine.

Dr. Salisbury commented:

“There have been tracks spotted in the Cable Beach area over the years, most of those are Sauropod tracks, but this is the first time we’ve become aware of there being another type of dinosaur track in that area.”

Doctor Salisbury with a Latex Cast of a Three-Toed Dinosaur Footprint

Taking a latex cast of a dinosaur footprint.

Dr. Steve Salisbury with a latex cast of an Australian dinosaur footprint.

Picture Credit: ABC News/Erin Parke

More Than One Type of Three-Toed Dinosaur

Dr. Salisbury’s trained eyes spotted something else unusual about the tridactyl prints.  Claws marks at the end of the toes can be clearly made out so these tracks were probably made by a meat-eater, but some of the tracks are subtly different, this suggests that more than one type of Theropod dinosaur is represented.  The Queensland University based scientist hopes to study the casts and in situ prints in order to determine more information about the dinosaurs that created them.

Using a simple hip to stride length formula, Dr. Salisbury has calculated that some of the prints were made by a dinosaur that had a hip height of around two metres.  A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that although it was not possible to give an accurate size estimate for a dinosaur based on these preliminary findings and more measurements would need to be taken, but as a rough approximation, you could be looking at a dinosaur around six metres in length.  A dinosaur that size would be about as big as Australovenator, a fearsome meat-eating dinosaur that lived some thirty million years or so after these tracks were made.

It may not be the biggest meat-eating dinosaur tracks ever found, the prints don’t represent the biggest Theropod known from Australia, but they do indicate that even in the most unlikely places, amazing fossils can be found.

To read an article that calls for more research to be done on the Western Australia dinosaur tracks: More Research Urgently Needed to Help Preserve and Protect Western Australia’s Trace Fossil Heritage

What Other Tracks Might Lie Under the Sand at Cable Beach?

A three-toed dinosaur footprint.

One of the dinosaur footprints from Cable Beach (WA)

Picture Credit: ABC Kimberley

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