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Polar Dinosaur Tracks Discovered in Australia

The reconstructed head of a Dromaeosaur-like Theropod dinosaur, complete with saliva, is seen after opening of Australia's first permanent dinosaurs exhibition at the Australian Museum, Sydney, March 14, 2008 (file photo)

Scientists in Australia have found 24 rare polar dinosaur footprints that were made about 105 million years ago during the last pronounced period of global warming, when the southern coast of the island continent was connected to Antarctica.

Unlike fossils, footprints offer an unusual glimpse into an animal's behavior. The researchers say the Cretaceous period tracks are a significant discovery because they provide a direct indication of how the polar dinosaurs interacted with their environment during an important time in geological history.

Paleontologists found the three-toed tracks embedded in the sandstone along a remote beach about 100 kilometers west of Melbourne. The scientists say the tracks probably were left in summer. They appear to belong to three different sizes of a two-legged, mostly-carnivorous type of dinosaur called theropods, which are the ancestors of modern birds.

Experts say the newly-found tracks are the best-preserved collection of polar dinosaur footprints ever found in the southern hemisphere.

The study is published in the paleontology journal, Alcheringa.