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Thousands of dinosaur footprints found in Australia



10:09 AM ET 07/08/97

Thousands of dinosaur footprints found in Australia

         
            SYDNEY, Australia (Reuter) - Thousands of dinosaur
footprints have been discovered on the remote northwest coast of
Australia, revealing giant creatures up to 100 feet tall, a
scientist said Tuesday.
            ``In the setting sun it looks like a fresh dinosaur
landscape,'' Australian paleontologist Tony Thulborn told
reporters. He said the well-preserved area was uncovered by the
action of cyclones and the sea.
            ``There are at least a dozen different dinosaur tracks. By
world standards it is an extremely rich, exceptionally diverse
and very, very important dinosaur track site,'' Thulborn said.
            The footprints range in size from a few inches in length,
left by plant-eating two-legged dinosaurs, to five foot seven
inch footprints, created by a giant four-legged sauropod like a
brontosaurus or stegosaurus.
            The creatures lived some 115 million to 120 million years
ago, during the Cretaceous period.
            Thulborn, from the University of Queensland, refused to
reveal the exact location of what he called a ``dinosaur
trackway,'' fearing vandals and thieves would plunder the
scientific treasure. A 130-million-year-old stegosaurus
footprint was stolen from the area in October 1996.
            Thulborn said his team, which included Italian and
Australian scientists, made the discovery in an area near the
coastal town of Broome which lies on a 50-mile stretch of coast
renowned for dinosaur footprints.
            He said recent cyclones unearthed the ``dinosaur trackway,''
enabling the team to discover some of the smaller dinosaur
tracks which are normally destroyed by erosion.
            ``The sea has uncovered an ancient landscape, a dinosaur
landscape with all the hills and hummocks and rises and dips,
and it is strewn with dinosaur footprints and the remains of the
plants and trees that used to grow there,'' Thulborn said.
            ``What is unique about the site is the abundance of
footprints. They are all over the place, some of them superbly
preserved.''