A trail of dinosaur footprints has been discovered in Queensland, just in time for them to be relocated and saved from the floods that have been tearing through the Australian state.
The well-preserved tracks date back around 95 million years and were made by three different types of dinosaur, according to the team of paleontologists involved in the project.
They have since been moved from the site of their discovery in Winton, Queensland, ensuring they avoided destruction by the intense rainfall and flooding that has hit the state since late last month.
“That these fine details are so well preserved after 95 million years is remarkable,” project leader Stephen Poropat of Swinburne University said in a statement.
Footprints on the track include 20 made by a large sauropod, a type of dinosaur that had a long trunk and tail and large, thick legs.
Some species of sauropod were exceptionally big, though the team didn’t give an estimate of the size of the dinosaurs responsible for the Winton tracks.
Researchers estimate that “Elliot” – a sauropod whose remains were discovered in Australia in 1999 – measured up to 18 meters (59 feet) long and 3.5 metres (over 11 feet ) high at the hip and weighed up to 20 tonnes (22 short tons).
The site also features prints from smaller ornithopod dinosaurs and “chicken-sized” theropod dinosaurs, alongside trampled tracks from other sauropods.
“These footprints are the best of their kind in Australia and their shape can be distinguished from all known sauropod footprints worldwide,” Poropat added.
Teams relocating the finds were able to shift the best-preserved prints before flooding hit the region last month.
“This is a very slow and painstaking process,” said David Elliott of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, which will house the prints, said in the statement. “The total weight of the trackway is in the vicinity of 500 tonnes and we are transporting it back to the Museum, one two-tonne trailer load at a time.”
The total area extends 55 meters (180 feet) and only about a quarter has been relocated, with the process due to continue throughout the year.
Ultimately, Queensland’s government believes the discovery will help the state recover from the damage caused by the flooding.
“We know the people of Winton are doing it tough at the moment. But discoveries like this will boost the tourism industry and help the outback economy recover from the recent monsoon,” Kate Jones, the state’s tourism minister, said in a statement.
“Outback Queensland has been the site of some of the world’s most significant dinosaur discoveries – this is an experience visitors can only get here in the Sunshine State,” she added.