Scientists identify Australia’s oldest bird tracks

Dinosaur Cove landscape
Dinosaur Cove landscape
Image: Thomas H. Rich
Source: Thomas H. Rich

Media contact: Alex Dook
adook@museum.vic.gov.au

A team of scientists has identified a pair of 100-million-year-old fossilised bird tracks  - the oldest ever discovered in Australia.

The fossilised tracks – likely made by two individual birds, each the size of a heron – were found at Dinosaur Cove, approximately 220 km southwest of Melbourne. The tracks were discovered as part of a long term project being conducted by a team of scientists including Museum Victoria’s Dr Tom Rich, Dr Patricia Vickers-Rich and Michael Hall from Monash University, and Dr Anthony Martin from Emory University in the United States.

 “We know the tracks were made by birds because of the rear-pointing toes,” said Dr Martin. “The tracks show a beautiful mark caused by the back toe dragging in the sand, which indicates the bird was flapping its wing and coming in for a soft landing. Discoveries like these help us better understand avian evolution.”

“The tracks date back to the Early Cretaceous, a time that spans from 100-million years ago to 140-million years ago when Victoria was still connected to Antarctica,” said Dr Rich. “The tracks were made in what was once the moist sand of a riverbank during a polar spring or summer.”

The scientists are still unsure whether the birds that made these tracks lived at the site during winter or migrated there during spring and summer.

Dinosaur Cove has been a hotspot for fossil discovery since 1980.

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Alex Dook, 8341 7141 / 0478 348 880, adook@museum.vic.gov.au

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre