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Dinosaur tracks found in Australia August 24, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Science.
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Australia is traditionally a relatively latecomer when it comes to dinosaur discoveries.  The first dinosaurs discovered were Iguanodon and Megalosaurus in England in the early 1820s.  We found herds of Hadrosaurs outside of Philadelphia in the 1840s (the significant finds out west started in the 1870s).  Compared to all that, the first dino finds Downunder not coming until the 1900s and 1930s seem quite recent.  It does not help things that Australia, even during the Age of Reptiles, did not have all of its land accessible to dinosaurs, as much of the present-day continent was covered by a shallow sea.  But it also was connected to both Antarctica and South America during this era, and as such, the part of Australia not covered by said shallow sea (try saying that three times fast!) was a crossroads of sorts for a number of species.

Despite the decent diversity of dinosaurs found in Australia, the actual number of species found Downunder are relatively few, for a number of geological reasons, one of which has already been mentioned.  But any dino discovery in Australia is significant because of its crossroads status, but also because it can give us clues to dinosaur migratory patterns as well as potential behavioral patterns during a unique time of when A) Australia was located further south than it is today, and B) despite the southern part of the continent’s almost polar latitudinal position during this time, a huge saving grace was that a major warming period occured at that same period, about 105 million years ago.

Hence the significance of the discovery of dino tracks along the coastline of Victoria dating to that time.  A research team led by Emory University Paleontologist Anthony Martin discovered what appear to be Therapod tracks from Australia’s polar period.  Keep in mind that dinosaurs were not discovered in Antarctica until the late 1980s — pre-dating the ground-breaking documentary on dinos hosted by Christopher Reeve in 1985.  But given that geologists surmised that the continents were at one time joined together, there were thoughts that finding dino fossils at the bottom of the world would be a matter of time.

Martin also found the first dinosaur trace fossils of a burrow in Australia back in 2006, so his track record for these finds is well-established.  This current find was in a location called Dinosaur Dreaming.  With a name like that, it sounds like Paleontologists ought to do more digging in that point on the map!

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