WA’s extraordinary dinosaur coast

Article | Updated 3 months ago

WA Museum curator Jessica Brainard with her palm on the footprint of a therapod

WA Museum curator Jessica Brainard with her palm on the footprint of a therapod
Image copyright WA Museum 

Written in sandstone along Western Australia’s Dampier Peninsula coast is a dinosaur story from deep time.  At low tide, when the sandstone is exposed, an incredible array of dinosaur footprints – left 130 million years ago – is revealed.

This story captures the imagination and conjures up images of dinosaurs roaming our Earth, stomping along our ancient coast and leaving their tracks.

For WA Museum staff Jessica Brainard and Daniel Schoknecht, this is a story that showcases Western Australia’s extraordinary biodiversity from long ago – and one that is being investigated for the New Museum for WA.

Jessica and Daniel are working with Broome community members, the Dinosaur Coast Management Group and palaeontologist Dr Steven Salisbury from the University of Queensland to understand more about the trackways and the significance of the place in which they are found.    

Dr Salisbury and his team have been documenting dinosaur tracks along the Dampier Peninsula for around six years. Along with community members they have observed thousands of dinosaur tracks in the area and identified 21 different types of preserved prints – the most diverse collection in the world.

These dinosaurs include massive sauropods, meat-eating theropods with deadly claws, and even the stegosaurus with its strange fin and spiked tail. This fossil find boasts some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded, including a sauropod footprint that is1.7 metre long!

The trackways along the Dampier Peninsula coast are culturally significant to the Aboriginal peoples of the area. The tracks form part of an ancient song cycle that extends along the coast and inland, tracing the journey of a Dreaming creator being named Marala or the Emu Man.

In partnership with community members and palaeontologists, the interpretation planned for the New Museum aims to highlight the scientific and cultural value of the of the Dampier Peninsula dinosaur trackways in an effort to raise awareness of the need to protect this key Western Australian heritage site.