Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Dinosaur Stampede Stopped in its Tracks

The large Lark Quarry footprints were made by a herbivorous dinosaur.

The large Lark Quarry footprints were made by a herbivorous dinosaur, perhaps one similar to Muttaburrasaurus. Credit: Anthony Romilio

By Anthony Romilio

A forensic analysis of ancient footprints has cast doubt on claims that a dinosaur stampede took place at Lark Quarry.

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Only living animals can make footprints, so the presence of more than 3000 individual fossil footprints made by more than 150 dinosaurs is cause for excitement for dinosaur fans and researchers alike. Known as Lark Quarry, the tracksite in central-western Queensland has the potential to reveal the actual behaviour of these ancient creatures when they lived in Australia around 93 million years ago.

Most of the footprints are aligned in a single orientation and were made by small dinosaurs no bigger than chickens and turkeys. These small-bodied dinosaurs were all moving in one direction, but why? This has been a question pondered by scientists since the late 1970s as well as whether the vital clue comes from a trackway made by a much larger Lark Quarry track-maker – a predatory dinosaur measuring more than 2.6 metres tall at the hips.

Now scientists examining these fossil footprints using 3D digital technology have toppled the answer proposed decades ago, with evidence suggesting that some dinosaurs went to extraordinary lengths to leave their mark at Lark Quarry.

Conventional wisdom suggests that most of Lark Quarry’s footprints were made during a single event. If this is correct then more than 150 small-bodied carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs stampeded together as one big herd after being frightened by the approach of a large predatory dinosaur...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.