A woman searching for seashells last weekend on a popular Australian beach found something of greater scientific interest: 130-million-year-old footprints belonging to a tyrannosaur-type carnivorous dinosaur.
Tracks for plant-eating sauropod dinosaurs have been spotted at other parts of the beach — Cable Beach near Broome, Western Australia — but dino footprints representing a meat-eating species have never been found before at the main tourist area of the site. The unusual and unexpected find was reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“I went to put my foot down, and the best way that I could describe it is that I felt a very strong energy,” beachgoer Bindi Lee Porth, who found the Cretaceous Era footprints, told ABC Local Radio. “When I’d taken my foot slightly off, I could see a bit of a hole, and I thought, ‘This is a bit weird.’ So I just sort of brushed all the sand away and it’s revealed this beautiful, like a bird, foot.”
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She also nearly brushed off her speculations about the prints, because the spot is associated with so much human activity such as sunbathing, fishing and kids playing in the sand. Porth, however, was with her daughter, Summerlee Smith, and her daughter’s friend. When the three examined the depressions more closely, they agreed that they must have belonged to a dinosaur.
ABC’s Matt Bamford later recreated the walk with Porth, showing the footprints at sunset:
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The rocky substrate at the beach is usually covered with soft white sand, but it had cleared away at the location Porth happened to examine, revealing the four-footprint dinosaur track.
Paleontologist Steve Salisbury from the University of Queensland was sent photographs of the footprints and immediately recognized their importance.
“There have been tracks spotted in the Cable Beach area over the years, most of those are sauropod tracks, but this is the first time we’ve become aware of there being another type of dinosaur track in that area,” Salisbury told ABC.
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The shape of the track suggests that it was made by a carnivorous dinosaur similar to, but not as large as, Tyrannosaurus rex.
“From the tracks that are found around the Broome area, we estimate that it’s probably about just under two meters (6.6 feet) at the hip most of the time,” he said. “So, not huge, but big enough that you probably wouldn’t want to encounter it if you were back in the Cretaceous.”