Queensland Dinosaur Trackways


Lark Quarry, 113 km south west of Winton in central Queensland, consists of around 3,300 footprints, made by around 150 individual animals. They were left by many small ornithopods and theropods, with some medium-sized ornithopods and perhaps one very large theropod (Tyrannosauropus sp). The small theropods have been estimated at 13-22 cm tall at the hip. The ornithopods ranged from 12 cm up to 70 cm at the hip. The large theropod has been estimated at around 2.6 metres at the hip - about the size of an average tyrannosaur.

The site was meticulously prepared by Drs Tony Thulborn and Mary Wade (with volunteers), and now lies beneath a weather proofing structure and visitor centre that was built around the site.

It has been suggested that a large theropod caused a stampede amongst the other species of dinosaur, although it is doubtful that all of the footprints can be shown with any certainty to be tightly contemporaneous (some of the small prints overlie those of the larger ones). They could have been made over a period of several hours. Research published in 2011 may indicate that the Tyrannosauropus tracks were actually made by a large ornithopod (a herbivore), although Thulborn has disputed the findings. The trackways date to the Cenomanian, around 95 million years ago.


Click for larger image

The tracks include:

Wintonopus latomorum ("Foot from Winton"). Ornithopod tracks ranging from 3 to 27 cm (averaging 7-8 cm) in length (see image below).

Tyrannosauropus sp ("Tyrannt reptile foot"). Large tracks up to 75 cm in length (mean length 52 cm).

Skartopus australis ("nimble foot"). Small theropod tracks 2.9 to 5.7 cm in length (see image below)

Lark Quarry footprints

 


Footprints dating to the Middle Jurassic (~180 MYA) are known from several coal mines in south eastern Queensland. Changpeipus bartholomaii tracks are known from coal deposits at the Westvale Colliery, evidently from a large theropod. Tracks of similar form were originally found in China.

Footprints from another Queensland coal mine, the Balgowan Colliery in the Darling Downs region, were also made by a large Jurassic theropod. With tracks measuring up to 71cm (2.3 feet) long, they were probably made by an animal around 10-11m (32-36 feet) in length, making it an animal of near-tyrannosaur proportions, and one of the largest Jurassic theropods known anywhere in the world (on a par with the largest known Allosaurus specimens).

At Mt Morgan, northern Queensland, both foot and hand prints of a theropod have been discovered, dated to around 170 MYA. The hand print shows five fingers, which was a primitive condition among theropod dinosaurs. The largest tracks are about 30cm long, indicating a theropod about 5m in length.

Early Jurassic (~200 MYA) ornithopod prints are known from Carnarvon Gorge, 95 km south of Rolleston, in the Carnarvon National Park. Anomoepus gracillimus tracks vary in length from 6.4 to 7.2 cm and are the oldest ornithopod tracks so far found in Australia. Other Anomoepus tracks are known from the Early Jurassic of the United States, southern Africa, and France. These would have been small herbivores not much more that a metre in length.

 

Grallator

The earliest evidence for dinosaurs in Australia comes in the form of theropod tracks from the Blackstone Formation of the Ipswich Coal Measures near Dinmore, in Queensland, dating to the Late Triassic (around 210-220 MYA). The smaller tracks have been assigned to the ichnogenus Grallator. These prints are no longer than about 7 cm (2.7 inches). Another, much larger, form of theropod print comes from the same coal formation. These Eubrontes tracks measure up to 46 cm (18 inches) long, with a stride length of around 2 meters (six feet). Sometimes Eubrontes tracks are considered a size variant of Grallator; that is, they are from similar animals that differ only in size.

 

Molnar, R. 1991 Fossil reptiles in Australia. In P.V.Rich, R.F.Baird, E.Thompson and J.Monaghan (eds) Fossil Vertebrates of Australasia. Pioneer Design Studio, Monash University, Melbourne. pp.605-702

Romilio, A. and S.W.Salisbury 2011 A reassessment of large theropod dinosaur tracks from the mid-Cretaceous (late Albian-Cenomanian) Winton Formation of Lark Quarry, central-western Queensland, Australia: A case for mistaken identity. Cretaceous Research 32, 135-142. PDF

Thulborn, R.A. 1994 Ornithopod dinosaur tracks from the Lower Jurassic of Queensland. Alcheringa 18:247-258

Thulborn, R.A. 1998 Australia's earliest theropods: footprint evidence in the Ipswich coal measures (Upper Triassic) of Queensland. Gaia 15:301-311 PDF

Thulborn, R.A. 2011 Lark Quarry revisited: a critique of methods used to identify a large dinosaurian trackmaker in the Winton Formation (Albian-Cenomanian), western Queensland, Australia. Cretaceous Research (advance online publication). Abstract

Thulborn, R.A. and M.Wade 1979 Dinosaur stampede in the Cretaceous of Queensland. Lethaia 12: 275-279

Thulborn, R.A. and M.Wade 1984 Dinosaur trackways in the Winton Formation (mid-Cretaceous) of Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 21:413-518.


Index of Trackways