The paw prints of a certain four-legged dinosaur, which puzzled paleontologists more than 60 years ago, were not what they originally thought. Mount Morgan has been a gold mine for paleontologists. More than a hundred surviving dinosaur paw prints have been found in its vicinity, including an unusual chain of five footprints on the ceiling of one of the local caves. They clearly belong to a representative of the theropod suborder - large bipedal reptiles, to which the tyrannosaurus belonged.
The unusualness of these tracks is that the creature that left them seemed to be moving on four legs - the prints are so close to each other. But this is not typical for theropods.
A hoax or a previously unknown detail of the life of a giant reptile? Due to the fact that the cave in which the footprints are located has been closed for a long time, and the remaining photographic evidence of the 1950s is of too low quality, this has long remained a mystery.
Those very tracks / © University of Queensland
Paleontologist Anthony Romilio of the University of Queensland also had little hope of solving this mystery. However, he was lucky: the materials for the solution were not at all in the cave. Romilio met Roslyn Dick, a local dentist. Her father, Ross Steins, worked as a geologist in the 1950s and found many dinosaur tracks.
Staines took his findings extremely seriously: he left behind notebooks with detailed reports and a whole series of photographs. Moreover, in his daughter's house there was even a plaster cast of a dinosaur footprint! Romilio digitized all the images and made a copy of the impression using a 3D printer: this allowed the scientist to unravel the mystery of the unusual tracks. An article about this work was published in Historical Biology.
Plaster print of one of the footprints / © University of Queensland
After studying the materials of Staines, Romilio and his colleagues came to the conclusion that all five prints were made by the hind legs of the dinosaur. In addition, the spread fingers and the ratio of their length prompted paleontologists to think that the chain of prints was not left by theropods, but by some herbivorous reptiles. “Instead of one four-legged dinosaur, we have here two dinosaurs for the price of one,” Romilio jokes. "Both herbivores followed each other along the shore of the ancient lake."
There is nothing surprising in the fact that in our time the footprints were on the ceiling of the cave. Ancient reptiles left footprints on the silt deposits, which were later covered with sand from above. Then the alluvial rock from below was destroyed and washed out by water, and the harder sandstone retained traces - and so they ended up on the ceiling.