The most impressive paleontological find of the year belongs to researchers from the University of Queensland and James Cook University, who can boast about uncovering the world's most varied collection of dinosaur tracks.
After a five-year study expedition in the faraway Kimberly region in Western Australia, a place known as the continent's "Jurassic Park," the team of paleontologists was able unveil a remarkable array of footmarks dating back almost 140 million years.
Among the sensational clues the dinosaurs left behind is the largest sauropod footprint ever encountered.
Measured at approximately 5 feet 9 inches - roughly double the size of another sauropod footprint found last year in the Gobi Desert - the gigantic track exceeds by almost 2 inches the previous record holder: a carnivorous dinosaur footprint unearthed in Bolivia last July.
Lead study author Steve Salisbury, from the University of Queensland, told CNN the newly found footprints are undoubtedly "spectacular" and mentioned all other dinosaur tracks ever discovered pale by comparison.
21 Distinct Dinosaur Tracks Found At Walmadany
The massive sauropod footprint is just the icing on a highly prized paleontological cake that features a series of fascinating discoveries.
According to the university's press release, investigations all along the Dampier Peninsula brought to light 21 distinct dinosaur tracks, beautifully preserved in 127- to 140 million-year-old rocks.
As Salisbury explained, this area - and particularly Walmadany (James Price Point) - meets the optimum conditions for the preservation of such ancient tracks, which make the region a "Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti."
"This is the most diverse dinosaur track fauna ever recorded," said Salisbury, who painted the mental picture of going back in time 130 million years ago to see the great giants roam the coastline. "It must've been quite a site," he added.
The First Confirmed Stegosaurus Track In Australia
As the study author put it, the new findings are "extremely significant" because they constitute the "primary record of non-avian dinosaurs" in Western Australia. Most dinosaur fossils were recovered on the island's eastern side and provide a singular glimpse of the continent's dinosaur fauna at the beginning of the Early Cretaceous.
Studies into the Walmadany region have been very prolific, with researchers uncovering thousands of dinosaur tracks, of which 150 have been assigned to 21 specific track types, depicting four main groups of dinosaurs.
"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 armored dinosaurs," detailed Salisbury.
Among these tracks, his team found the first documented proof of stegosaurus presence on the continent.
The extraordinary findings, along with the study conclusions, were published in the journal Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.