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Anthony Martín, a paleontologist at Emory University, has discovered 24 three-toed dinosaur tracks dating back around 105 million years, in the sand of what was then the South Pole and now Milanesia Beach, in Victoria, Australia , and this is the largest number of footprints ever found at a single site in the southern hemisphere.
The footprints were made by several groups of small theropods, most likely ornithomomosaurus, also known as "the ostrich impersonator”, Because they have many similar characteristics with that animal.
They probably would have traveled during the summer, as no traces of ground frost have been found. The wet sand where they walked was compacted into sandstone slabs over millions of years, leaving unbroken footprints on its surface. At that time, Australia was part of the Gondwana Continent along with the Antarctica.
“These 24 footprints represent between 85% and 90% of the dinosaur footprints found in the State and are considered as valuable sources of information on the diversity of dinosaurs and their activity in the area”, Explained the paleontologist.
“What is significant about dinosaur footprints, as opposed to bones or teeth, is the evidence of their presence at the site. Fossil footprints tell us how they lived at a certain time”Said Thomas Rich, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Victoria Museum in Melbourne.
They can also provide important information about the Earth's climate history. The planet was going through a period of global warming between 115 and 105 million years ago, when these footprints were predicted to be made. The average temperature in the region was 20 degrees Celsius, 10 more than we find today but we must bear in mind that at that time, it was closer to Antarctica.
Anthony Martín points out that “These clues provide us with a direct indicator of how these dinosaurs were interacting with polar ecosystems at an important time in geological history.”.
Because sandstone is susceptible to erosion, the research team removed the stone slabs, trying to keep the footprints, and took them to the Victoria Museum, where silicone molds will be made for further study.
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