Monumental dinosaur discovery saved from floods in the nick of time

Dinosaur discovery in Winton rescued before Queensland floods


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The sauropod tracks discovered at the Karoola property outside of Winton.

The sauropod tracks discovered at the Karoola property outside of Winton.

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The tracks would be 'buggered' if the floods got to them.

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David Elliott figured a monumental discovery 95 million years in the making would be instantly "buggered" if Winton had a summer wet season. 

It turns out he was right. 

Mr Elliott, the executive chairman of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, has been working with a dedicated crew in western Queensland's searing summer heat to excavate and preserve an astonishing set of dinosaur footprints. 

The footprints - found near a small creek on Mike Elliott's Karoola property about an hour and a half outside WInton - are the best preserved Sauropod tracks ever discovered in Australia.

The site of the discovery has since been swamped by the devastating floods sweeping through Queensland, with Mr Elliott certain the fragile parts of the track would not have survived if left in the ground. 

"It would be buggered. It would be gone," he said. 

"It's a good thing it didn't rain a month earlier."

Fragile parts of the track had to be painstakingly excavated.

Fragile parts of the track had to be painstakingly excavated.

The fragile part of the track was painstakingly excavated throughout December, with a more robust rock section left in the ground. 

"We got the fragile stuff out just around Christmas," Mr Elliott said.  

"Now we are just working on pulling up the big rock section. That's under mud at the moment, but it's too heavy to wash away."

Swinburne University palaeontologist Dr Stephen Poropat has been leading the museum's research team and stressed how remarkable the discovery was. 

“These footprints are the best of their kind in Australia and their shape can be distinguished from all known sauropod footprints worldwide,” he said.

"That these fine details are so well preserved after 95 million years is remarkable,” he said.

Although difficult to assign to a particular species, Dr Poropat said the footprints were made by dinosaurs belonging to a group called the Titanosauriforms. 

Titanosaurs are long-necked dinosaurs and some of the largest animals ever to exist on the planet. 

Excavation work underway on the tracks, the best preserved Sauropod tracks ever discovered in Australia.

Excavation work underway on the tracks, the best preserved Sauropod tracks ever discovered in Australia.

Winton Mayor Gavin Baskett said the discovery was a rare piece of good news as parts of the shire came to grips with the fallout from the devastating floods. 

"This is great news in tough times. 

"A lot of the shire is doing it pretty tough at the moment. So it's good to maybe be able to give people a bit of an uplift.

"It was great to get the footprints out before the rain. We had 10 days of non-stop rain. 

"Those footprints that are fragile - if you knew they were there and it rained and they were gone, it would break your heart."

Mr Elliott said he was hoping to have the footprints on display at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum by June next year.  

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