Dr Tom Rich: About a year ago, together with Dr Tony Martin from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, he and I walked the entire coast of Victoria that has a potential for things like this, for dinosaurs and the things that lived with them. And we were looking primarily for the burrows of dinosaurs because that’s his specialty. When we reached this site at Melanesia Beach which is in the Otways, this block turned up and another one turned up about two or three metres away. Tony recognised this one and a local who was working with us by the name of Greg Denney found the other one. And between these two blocks, there’s about 85 per cent of the known dinosaur footprints from this state.
The actual picking them up and taking them out, once we’d figured out how to do it, took four hours. But it took a back-hoe to physically pick it up and get it off the beach and up the hill to where we had vehicles that we could load it onto.
We made about two or three trips, trying to decide how we’d do it. One idea was to make them lighter by splitting them this way but in the end we decided these cracks were too significant and we’d probably break them so we decided to take the whole thing.
When we went back in November, this one was almost buried, the small one, and if we’d come back... it might have been gone. It might have been washed away because they do move. When the storm waves come in these things can actually move around. So besides being eroded away, there was a possibility it would be either turned over so we wouldn’t know that we had the right block, or they’d be physically just destroyed.
To people who casually look at it, they look very faint – why is that. It’s because these are what are called undertracks; in other words, the surface that the dinosaurs actually stood on was probably up here someplace. It might have been a layer of sand, it might have been a layer of sediment that was softer than this, and when they pressed down on that, the pressure was passed into this surface so that's why you get the track but you don’t get for example the equivalent on the fingerprints of these and that’s also why they’re fainter. But given that this is 85 per cent of all we’ve got in this state, it’s worth getting.
What is significant about tracks as opposed to bones and teeth and things like this, one thing is that you know the animal was there. They didn’t come from somewhere else and get buried there, this is actually where the animal stepped. You can find out things about their behaviour. For example, there’s a little track here and another one there and a third one there and what this indicates is that a fairly small dinosaur was walking and turned slightly to the right. We can estimate the speed – somewhere between seven and nine kilometres an hour – based on the spacing of the tracks and the size of the tracks. We also can estimate the height of the animal, probably about four times the maximum length of the tracks so the pelvis would have been about here and so it might have been about that high. We’re looking at a small carnivorous dinosaur and the tracks, as Tony analysed them, he recognised three groups. The most common are the smaller ones which he interpreted as juveniles and there are two other classes which he suggests might be might be male and female, larger, or possibly the same taxon but we don’t know that for sure.