EMORY (US) — Polar dinosaur tracks from about 105 million years ago are offering clues into animal behavior during the last period of pronounced global warming.
The discovery found on the coast of Victoria, Australia and reported in the journal Alcheringa, is the largest and best collection of polar dinosaur tracks ever found in the Southern Hemisphere.
“These tracks provide us with a direct indicator of how these dinosaurs were interacting with the polar ecosystems, during an important time in geological history,” says Anthony Martin, a paleontologist at Emory University who led the research.
The three-toed tracks are preserved on two sandstone blocks from the Early Cretaceous Period and appear to belong to three different sizes of small theropods—a group of bipedal, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs whose descendants include modern birds.
The tracks were found on the rocky shoreline of remote Milanesia Beach, in Otways National Park, an area west of Melbourne that is known for energetic surf and rugged coastal cliffs, consisting of layers of sediment accumulated over millions of years.
Riddled with fractures and pounded by waves and wind, the cliffs occasionally shed large chunks of rock, such as those containing the dinosaur tracks.
The research team also included Thomas Rich, from the Museum of Victoria; Michael Hall and Patricia Vickers-Rich, both from Monash University in Victoria; and Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, an ecologist and expert in spatial analysis from Emory’s Department of Environmental Studies.
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