Palaeontologists have just made the unprecedented discovery of 21 different dinosaur tracks in a remote region of Western Australia, on ancient rocks dating back 140 million years.
In 2008, the government of Western Australia identified the coastal region of Kimberley as a potential site for a massive liquid natural gas processing precinct.
Fearing that the area's rich natural and palaeological heritage would be lost, the region's traditional Aboriginal custodians invited a team of researchers from the University of Queensland and James Cook University to work in an area known as Walmadany.
They wanted them to study the many dinosaur tracks which had first been spotted on ancient rocks in the 1960s, but which have never been investigated in depth.
Using innovative technologies to help them in their endeavour, the researchers spent more than 400 hours documenting the tracks and identifying how many different dinosaur species were represented.
Scientists who had previously worked in the region had only proposed that this number could be as high as 16. However, the results of these new investigations, now published in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, indicate that the tracks belong to 21 different types of dinosaurs – a "globally unparalleled" discovery.
"There were 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", lead author Steve Salisbury commented.
The find provides a glimpse of Australia's dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period, some 140 million years ago. It includes some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded.
"It's such a magical place, Australia's own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting", Salisbury added.
Previously, most of Australia's dinosaur tracks had been found in the eastern part of the country.