Australian dinosaur tracks, world’s most diverse


This 27 March 2017 video is called Dinosaur tracks found at ‘Australia’s Jurassic Park‘ in Walmadany.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

‘Australia’s Jurassic Park’ the world’s most diverse

March 27, 2017

Summary: An unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometer stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed ‘Australia’s Jurassic Park.’ A team of paleontologists has unveiled the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in 127 to 140 million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

An unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometre stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed “Australia’s Jurassic Park.”

A team of palaeontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University‘s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences braved sharks, crocodiles, massive tides and the threat of development to unveil the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in 127 to 140 million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Lead author Dr Steve Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks around Walmadany (James Price Point) was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti.”

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” Dr Salisbury said.

“It’s such a magical place — Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting.”

In 2008, the Western Australian Government selected Walmadany as the preferred site for a $40 billion liquid natural gas processing precinct.

The area’s Traditional Custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, contacted Dr Salisbury and his team, who dedicated more than 400 hours to investigating and documenting the dinosaur tracks.

“We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe said.

The dinosaur tracks form part of a song cycle that extends along the coast and then inland for 450 km, tracing the journey of a Dreamtime creator being called Marala, the Emu man.

“Marala was the Lawgiver. He gave country the rules we need to follow. How to behave, to keep things in balance,” Mr Roe said said.

“It’s great to work with UQ researchers. We learnt a lot from them and they learnt a lot from us.”

Dr Salisbury said the surrounding political issues made the project “particularly intense,” and he was relieved when National Heritage listing was granted to the area in 2011 and the gas project collapsed in 2013.

“There are thousands of tracks around Walmadany. Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs, ” Dr Salisbury said.

“There were five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armoured dinosaurs.

“Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia. There are also some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded. Some of the sauropod tracks are around 1.7 m long.”

“Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent, and are between 115 and 90 million years old. The tracks in Broome are considerably older.”

The research has been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Ruby seadragons, first ever video


This video says about itself:

12 January 2017

Researchers at Scripps Oceanography and the Western Australian Museum capture on video the first-ever field sighting of the newly discovered third species of seadragon. As they observed two Ruby Seadragons on video for nearly 30 minutes, the scientists uncovered new details about their anatomy, habitat, and behavior.

See also here.

Western Australian coral reef, unique new research


This 2013 video from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is called Scuba Diving with an Amazing Sea Cucumber.

From the Science Network Western Australia:

Rare chance at never-before-studied Kimberley reef

January 4, 2016 by Samille Mitchell

The weather gods conspired to provide a rare chance to survey a remote and rarely visited section of north Kimberley reef recently, with footage that will inform the future study of reefs through climate change.

Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) researchers and Wunambal Gaambera traditional owners took advantage of the rare weather conditions to visit East Holothuria Reef, about 30km from the tip of Bougainville Peninsula, to conduct coral surveys.

They uncovered a flourishing and extremely biodiverse reef system, resplendent with corals and fishes, in a spectacular and never-before-studied part of the Kimberley’s underwater world.

“It is right in the top corner of the Bougainville Peninsula where wind-against-tides creates very rough sea conditions for much of the time,” says DPAW research scientist Andrew Halford.

“But we lucked-in with glass-off weather during neap tides—it was like a good perfect storm.”

The team traversed multiple 100-metre transects of the reef placing a camera on the bottom every 10 metres, which took photos every five seconds to record the diversity of the coral community.

Such footage will be used as a benchmark at monitoring sites across the north Kimberley, to enable conservation managers to study how reefs change and respond to different circumstances such as storms or a changing climate.

“We will be establishing long-term monitoring sites in the Kimberley that we can go back to and keep track of over time,” Dr Halford says.

“We’ll be able to see whether healthy reef communities can adapt to changing conditions over time.”

The big picture

The DPAW survey was part of a much larger examination of Kimberley benthic communities conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, and the WA Museum, under the WA Marine Science Institute-managed Kimberley Marine Research Program.

These organisations are using large research vessels to study the diversity of the Kimberley marine benthic environment. The DPAW survey complimented their work by assessing shallower near-shore areas that are inaccessible to the larger boats.

Dr Halford says traditional owners are also playing an important role in monitoring these remote marine systems.

“As well as providing traditional knowledge of these areas, the idea is that eventually traditional owner groups will go out and do the surveying themselves,” Dr Halford says.

“They can take the footage and then the images can be sent to experts for analysis.”

‘Extinct’ Australian sea snakes rediscovered


This August 2015 video is called Top 10 Rarest Snakes In The World (Endangered Snakes).

From ScienceDaily:

Scientists discover rare sea snakes, previously thought extinct, off Western Australia

Date:

December 21, 2015

Source:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Summary:

Scientists have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia. It’s the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.

Scientists from James Cook University have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia.

It’s the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.

“This discovery is really exciting, we get another chance to protect these two endemic Western Australian sea snake species,” says study lead author Blanche D’Anastasi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU.

“But in order to succeed in protecting them, we will need to monitor populations as well as undertake research into understanding their biology and the threats they face.”

The discovery of the critically endangered short nose sea snake was confirmed after a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photo of a pair of snakes taken on Ningaloo Reef to Ms D’Anastasi for identification.

“We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia’s natural icons, Ningaloo Reef,” says Ms D’Anastasi.

“What is even more exciting is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population.”

The researchers also made another unexpected discovery, uncovering a significant population of the rare leaf scaled sea snake in the lush seagrass beds of Shark Bay.

The discovery was made 1700 kilometres south of the snakes only known habitat on Ashmore Reef.

“We had thought that this species of sea snake was only found on tropical coral reefs. Finding them in seagrass beds at Shark Bay was a real surprise,” says Ms D’Anastasi.

Both leaf scaled and short nosed sea snakes are listed as Critically Endangered under Australia’s threatened species legislation, which means they have special protection.

Despite the good news of the find, sea snake numbers have been declining in several marine parks, and scientists are at a loss to explain why.

“Many of the snakes in this study were collected from prawn trawl by-catch surveys, indicating that these species are vulnerable to trawling,” says Dr Vimoksalehi Lukoschek from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“But the disappearance of sea snakes from Ashmore Reef, could not be attributed to trawling and remains unexplained.

“Clearly we need to identify the key threats to their survival in order to implement effective conservation strategies if we are going to protect these newly discovered coastal populations,” Dr Lukoschek says.

Two striking sea snakes have been spotted drifting off the coast of Western Australia, more than 15 years after the species was declared extinct. These bright yellow short nosed sea snakes (Aipysurus apraefrontalis) vanished from their natural habitat in the Timor Sea between 1998 and 2002, only to reappear in full view of a park ranger this month: here.

Western Australia dinosaur tracks, new study


This video says about itself:

Dinosaur Footprints in Broome, Western Australia

At Gantheaume Point and 30 m (98 ft) out to sea are dinosaur footprints dated as Early Cretaceous in age (approximately 130 million years ago). The tracks can be seen only during very low tide.

From the Science Network of Western Australia site:

Friday, 16 October 2015

Dinosaur tracks offer window to ancient landscapes

Written by Kandy Curran

RESEARCHERS are working to reconstruct scenes from 130 million years ago, when Australia was still connected to Antarctica and covered in towering conifer forests, via dinosaur tracks.

When the sun, moon and earth align to produce the biggest tidal range, Dr Salisbury from The University of Queensland and his team of palaeontologists, geologists and roboticists are on the exposed intertidal zone to study the coast where some 16 species of dinosaur once roamed.

The ambitious project aims to digitally catalogue remnant dinosaur tracks over an 80 km stretch of coastline and then use that imaging to reconstruct the ancient landscape that was inhabited by some of the planet’s biggest dinosaurs.

These tracks are the only known evidence of dinosaurs along the Broome coast thus far, as the muddy sediment that the dinosaurs walked over has hardened to eventually form sedimentary rock.

“We also want to figure out just how many different types of dinosaur tracks there are in this area to get a handle on the significance of the footprint fauna, because to this point very little detailed work has been done,” Dr Salisbury says.

With many only exposed for a few hours each day, and only a few days each year, the team have had to adopt innovative remote sensing technologies to speed up the process.

In addition to making moulds of various tracks with a quick setting silicon rubber, thousands of photographs are being taken using a conventional camera and a low-flying drone.

These images are used to create virtual 3D models that are combined with laser scans from a hand-held LiDAR unit developed by CSIRO.

Geological analysis of various rocks in the area has revealed that many of the tracks seem to occur in the same layer of sandstone, created as seasonal floods inundated low-lying sandbars and floodplains. It was over this muddy environment that the dinosaurs walked and left their tracks.

Dr Salisbury says his team is now beginning to contextualise the tracks over large geographic areas, and can better understand which direction the dinosaurs were travelling, whether they were walking or running, and if they were interacting or crossing the landscape in groups, searching for food, or trying to escape predators.

“One of the really special things about the tracks is that they’re part of the creation mythology associated with indigenous law and culture in this area; they’re integrated into a song cycle that extends along the coast, with the knowledge of the tracks probably extending back thousands of years”.

In an effort to protect, promote and educate the public about the dinosaur tracks of the Dampier Peninsula, Dr Salisbury and members of the Broome community formed a Dinosaur Coast Management Group in 2014.

Dr Salisbury and his team have provided outstanding presentations on their research in the Science on the Broome Coast series, drawing large audiences on both occasions.

The science series, which aims to showcase the exciting research that is underway on Broome’s coast, is an initiative of the Roebuck Bay Working Group and Yawuru Land and Sea Unit, and sponsored by Inspiring Australia, Rangelands NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Broome Shire Council.