SYDNEY - Giant footprints found in a disused coal mine belong to Australia’s biggest predatory dinosaur, according to new research.
Analysis by the University of Queensland estimates this huge meat-eating predator was about 10 meters long, almost as big as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The tracks were found in the ceilings of old coal mines in the 1950s but were only recently scientifically examined.
For years, they lay untouched in a museum but have now been investigated by paleontologist Anthony Romilio. He said they are likely to have been made by a fearsome prehistoric creature. His study is published in the journal Historical Biology.
Romilio says while no bones have been found, the tracks provide a fascinating window into the distant past.
“We find many more footprints than what we do skeletons, and we can tell by the shape that this particular animal was a meat-eating dinosaur,” he said. “We can tell by the size -- nearly 80 centimeters in length -- that the animal that made them had legs about 3 meters long, and probably a body up to 10 meters long. We can tell the environments in which they lived as well as the community of dinosaurs.”
Dinosaur bones and fossils have been found in most parts of Australia, but the continent’s flat, exposed landscape is not considered suitable for preserving the remains of the ancient creatures.
However, the state of Queensland has provided some significant discoveries.
Fossils indicate it was home to an Ankylosaurus, which was covered in bony armor to protect it from carnivores.
The Muttaburrasaurus was named after the small town of Muttaburra in Queensland, and was a huge herbivore, up to 8 meters tall, with a beak and sharp teeth for eating plants. Scientists believe it would have lived in forests near the edge of a giant inland sea that covered vast areas of central Australia 110 million years ago.
Many dinosaur species became extinct around 66 million years ago, but their descendants still exist in abundance today: birds.