Washington, Oct 20: The discovery of the first fossil tracks belonging to a large, carnivorous dinosaur in Victoria, Australia has shed new light on the fact that dinosaurs lived in a polar environment during the Cretaceous Period, when Australia was still joined to Antarctica and was closer to the South Pole.
The three separate dinosaur tracks are about 14 inches long, and show at least two or three partial toes.
Palaeontologists from Emory University (the US) and Monash University and the Museum of Victoria (both Australia), believe large carnivorous dinosaurs (theropods) made the tracks on river floodplains about 115 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
Senior lecturer in environmental studies at Emory, Anthony Martin said, based on track sizes, the dinosaurs were 4.6 to 4.9 feet tall at the hip, large by human standards, but about 20 percent smaller than Allosaurus, a large theropod from the Jurassic Period.
Martin found two of the tracks during a February 2006 visit with Thomas Rich of the Museum of Victoria to the “Dinosaur Dreaming" site, near the coastal town of Inverloch.
Tyler Lamb, a Monash undergraduate student and volunteer at the dig site, found a third track in February 2007, having been alerted by Lesley Kool of Monash University to look for them.
Martin then confirmed its identity during a visit in July 2007. Other possible, partial dinosaur tracks have been found at the same site and another locality, but these have yet to be studied in detail.
“I think a lot more tracks are out there, but they've been too subtle to notice before now," said Martin.
The researchers believe additional tracks will be found at the site too, as now they have examples of the tracks to go by in their searches.
The research was presented on October 19 at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Austin, Texas.