Although the Aboriginal community has had a long and continuing connection with dinosaur tracks, research by Broome-based social historian Robyn Wells suggests the first record of non-Aboriginal knowledge of the tracks dates from around 1900 when Daisy Bates spent some time in the Broome area. However the broader Broome community only became aware of Marala’s three-toed tracks in 1935, when a group of Girl Guides noticed some of them at low tide at Minyirr (Gantheaume Point). The name Megalosauropus broomensis (‘great lizard-foot of Broome’) was formally proposed for these tracks by the late Professor Edwin Colbert (American Museum of Natural History) and Duncan Merrilees (Western Australian Museum) in 1967.
Further research has revealed that several families from Broome have long and continuing connections to the story of dinosaur discovery. Click on the link below to read more about these stories:
Additional knowledge of the Dampier Peninsula’s dinosaur tracks emerged in the late 1980s, when local naturalist the late Paul Foulkes and his then partner Louise Middleton, working closely with Aboriginal custodians, identified other types of tracks around Broome and as far north as Walmadany (James Price Point). Foulkes and Middleton were the first to recognise the many large round impressions that occur in the Broome Sandstone as sauropod tracks. In collaboration with Dr Tony Thulborn and the late Tim Hamley from The University of Queensland, Foulkes published many of his and Middleton’s findings in 1994, as the international significance of the Dampier Peninsula’s dinosaur tracks gradually became more widely known.
Since 2011 scientists from the University of Queensland, led by Dr. Steve Salisbury, have been working with local Aboriginal people to catalogue the fossils digitally and reconstruct the landscapes these dinosaurs wandered through. In addition to making physical moulds of the footprints using a rapid-setting silicon rubber, and taking photographs from ground-mounted tripods, the team is now using a handheld LiDAR unit developed by Australia’s national science organisation, the CSIRO. A collaborator in the research, Professor Jorg Hacker, director of Airborne Research Australia at Flinders University, is taking aerial photographs of the track sites using a remote controlled drone and a specialised, low-speed aircraft, which is also fitted with LiDAR.
To hear Dr Salisbury tell the research story click here
To get to know some dinosaur scientists check out Who’s involved in the current research
To read a 2015 BBC TV report on the scientists’ work click here