Feeds

Dino-boffins discover 100-million-year-old BIRD TRACKS in Australia

Aussie boffins' amazing claim

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Two thin-toed tracks made more than 100 million years ago are proof birds wandered prehistoric Australia, according to palaeoboffins.

Photo of the sandstone fossil along with a drawing illustrating the track

Photo of the sandstone fossil along with a drawing illustrating the track. Credit: Anthony Martin

Emory University palaeontologist Anthony Martin spotted that the impressions in a fossil found at the aptly-named Dinosaur Cove on the coast of Victoria had a telltale fourth toe, making it more than likely that the creature that left the print was a bird.

"The track seemed familiar, like a face I had seen before but couldn’t quite identify," he said in a blog post describing the find. "Then I realised who it belonged to, and where I had seen many others like it. It was a bird track, remarkably similar to those in the sands and muds of the Georgia coast, made daily by the herons, egrets, and shorebirds."

While both birds and dinosaurs could be responsible for a three-toed footprint, there were very few lizards with a backward-facing fourth toe, called a hallux, used by birds to grab onto branches when landing. Any dinos that did have the hallux usually had an elevated vestigial one, which wouldn't show up in a print.

To add to the evidence, the hallux had left behind a long gouge, like the bird had made the mark when coming in for a landing on sand.

"Based on my years of experience with Georgia-coast bird tracks, the qualities of this fossil track were consistent with those in tracks made by similar-sized birds – such as small herons or egrets – that landed after flight," Martin said. "Ichnologists call such traces volichnia ('flight traces'), which are rare in the fossil record, but abundantly represented in soft substrates today wherever flying birds might live."

The fossil, a slab of sandstone, also contained two other prints, another with a hallux and one without, suggesting that two birds and a small dinosaur had all left their marks in the same spot. Because wet sand dries so quickly, the footprints would have to have been made very close to each other, possibly even on the same day, so the dino and the birds must have shared the same ecosystem.

The slab was originally found by volunteers from the Museum Victoria, Sean Wright and Alan Tait, who were out looking for more of the dinosaur bones that led to the cove's name.

Martin and his colleagues published their study, "Oldest known avian footprints from Australia: Eumeralla Formation (Albian), Dinosaur Cove, Victoria", in Palaeontology. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.