Polar dinosaur tracks open new trail to past
Paleontologists have discovered a group of more than 20 polar dinosaur tracks on the coast of Victoria, Australia, offering a rare glimpse into animal behavior during the last period of pronounced global warming, about 105 million years ago, sciencedaily.com reported Wednesday.
The discovery, reported in the journal Alcheringa, is the largest and best collection of polar dinosaur tracks ever found in the Southern Hemisphere, the report said.
Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin, who led the research, says, "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," according to the Science Daily. Martin is an expert in trace fossils, which include tracks, trails, burrows, cocoons and nests.
The three-toed tracks are preserved on two sandstone blocks from the Early Cretaceous Period, the Science Daily said. They 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, it said.
This area, west of Melbourne, 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 report said.