Study lead author Anthony Romelu, a technical assistant in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a statement.
He teamed up with a team of international researchers to reanalyze the fossil and found that the print belonged to a Prosauropod, a herbivorous dinosaur. This would make fingerprints the only physical evidence Romelu said that all prosauropods from the Triassic period were in Australia.
The fossil was discovered in a coal mine in Ipswich, a town west of Brisbane, 200 meters underground. Scientists at the time estimated that the creature that made the footprint was more than 6 feet (2 meters) long, making it the largest carnivorous dinosaur of the Triassic period, he said.
Romelu wouldn’t buy it – in part because there was no consistent data on the fossil.
“I heard about this fossil many years ago and was surprised that there was no consensus on basic details such as the length of the imprint or even its shape,” he said.
Romelu said one clue that the print came from a prosauropod-like herbivore was the shape of the feet. The toes of predatory dinosaurs were clustered together, but the fossil toes were spaced apart.
This long-necked animal was about 1.4 meters long and about 6 meters long. Romelu added that the dinosaur likely had a small head and walked on two legs.
In the statement, Romelu said that previous scientists were unable to examine the fossil during their investigations, forcing them to draw conclusions based on photographs and drawings.
Co-author Hendrik Klein said in a statement that in 1964 geologists made plaster casts of the footprint, which were later turned into 3D models that the research team studied. He is a paleontologist at the Saurierwelt Paläontologisches Museum in Germany.
“The more we look at the footprints and impressions in the toes and their dimensions, the less they resemble the footprints of predatory dinosaurs — this beast dinosaur was definitely more plant-friendly,” Klein said.
Romelu examines the footprints of other dinosaur fossils in China, South Korea, and the United States to learn more about the creatures that created them.
Each dinosaur made millions of footprints over the course of its life, he said, so together they left many more fossil footprints than bones for research.
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