Massive T-Rex sized dinosaur roamed the Gladstone region
A DINOSAUR almost the size of the largest T-Rex roamed around the Gladstone region 160 million years ago, feasting on vulnerable herbivores bigger than a bus.
The discovery of footprints up to 79 cm long in an abandoned coal mine suggests the beast was Australia's largest meat-eating theropod dinosaur, says University of Queensland Palaeontologist Dr Anthony Romilio.
The massive meat-eater was one of the first large carnivorous dinosaurs to roam Australia, then known as Gondwanaland.
"These big dinosaurs would have roamed throughout Gladstone, across Queensland, across the borders and would have been distributed Australia wide," Dr Romilio said.
"At that time Australia was still connected to Antarctica so they would have travelled down there and stretching across the land bridge that extended to South America.
"We have excellent evidence that they were here.
"Areas like Gladstone had a really high diversity of dinosaurs passing through, and as residents there, just like many other areas of that time, when the dinosaurs ruled the land."
If you sat on the roof of a bus, you would have been at eye level with this dinosaur, Dr Romilio said, and it would have been almost as long as the bus.
"The Queensland giants are comparable in size to the largest T-Rex, but not closely related," he said.
"They predate the T-Rex by 90 million years, so we had the biggest meat eating dinosaurs here, way before anywhere else in the world did.
"They weren't as butch as the T-Rex, they were more slender, elongate dinosaurs in that time, so 160 million years-ago, and they were longer than the T-Rex, just not as bulky."
The discovery came from analysis of footprints held at The Queensland Museum for 60 years or more.
"They were excavating coal at Oakey near Toowoomba and they found the sandy infills of dinosaur footprints that had turned into sandstone," Dr Romilio said.
"Shaped like a giant bird footprint, they were definitely made by a really big beast and from my research, comparing them with other similar footprints, they are characteristic of the meat eating dinosaurs of that time."
For further evidence of the Kayentapus prints, and to name the beast, Dr Romilio said finding more fossil evidence in the Gladstone area, similar to that from Mount Morgan, near Rockhampton, would be fantastic.
"We have only discovered foot prints, and not fossil evidence of bones and the like yet, so a name hasn't been allocated," he said.
"Footprints are made everywhere and its more likely for those thousands of footprints to be fossilised than their skeletons, which are only where they died.
"It's about getting those rocks that are dinosaur aged accessible, and in Australia we don't have the geological activity that brings those rocks to the surface, so we rely on excavation and digging down.
"In Mount Morgan they excavated to mine for gold and copper and they found dinosaur evidence on the ceilings of those caverns they were mining.
"Now that we know that these big guys were here, we really should be on the lookout to find more evidence."