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High hopes for Otways dino find

June 17, 2022 BY

A scientist's model of an ornithopod, which researchers theorise could have left footprints recently found near Apollo Bay. Photo: SUPPLIED

AMATEUR Apollo Bay paleontologists have uncovered almost 150 suspected dinosaur tracks on the Otways coast that have piqued interest from Australia’s leading researchers.

Intrepid citizen scientists Kate and Tim Wagstaff found the collection of fossilised footprints on an expedition to Browns Creek – about a kilometre north-east of Skenes Creek.

Imprints to oceanside rocks just metres from the Great Ocean Road appeared to show evidence of a three-toed foot consistent with the carnivorous theropod or herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur subgroups.

The Wagstaffs said they found more than 50 prints within 25 metres during their first visit late last month, and subsequent searches have almost tripled the haul to 146.

Mrs Wagstaff said the expedition was inspired by a report co-authored by Apollo Bay geologist Tim Godfret and University of Queensland researcher Anthony Romilio of prints discovered at nearby Wattle Hill.

“I think people presumed we’d happened upon them but we didn’t,” she said.

“We went looking for them because we’d seen the others and my husband Tim had seen the same types of rocks where we went to look.”

 

Tim Wagstaff inspects suspected fossilised footprints at a rock formation at Browns Creek. Photo: SUPPLIED

 

The discoverers speculated that recent king tides and sand movements at the Otways coast uncovered the footprints.

The size and depth of the prints will provide researchers with information about the likely size of the prehistoric creatures that roamed the rock’s surface tens of millions of years ago.

Dr Romilio will create 3D prints of the suspected fossils based on photos taken at the site for further analysis from Australia’s scientific community and then public presentation of the findings.

The ichnologist said preliminary studies of the images had raised hopes of a positive breakthrough.

 

More than 140 previously unfound prints are part of the discovery. Photos: SUPPLIED

 

“The Wagstaffs contacted Tim Godfrey and said, ‘is this what we think it is?’.

“Tim thought it looked pretty good and sent it to me, and they look legit,” Mr Romilio said.

“They’re at various stages of preservation; some are preserved in a manner you’d expect of a normal footprint with an impression, some are remnants of beneath the track surface, but you can still recognise it as a dinosaur footprint.”

Mr Romilio said the diverse range of prints could indicate dinosaurs ranging between roughly that of a chicken to about 1.5 metres tall.