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Footprints of 'badass dinosaur' reveal Australia's largest theropod

The giant meat eater's footprints measure about 2.6 feet long.

dinosaur

Here's what Australia's giant theropod dinosaur would have looked like in front of a silhouette of a T-rex. 

Anthony Romilio/University of Queensland

T. rex isn't the only big dinosaur that roamed the planet. New research has identified Australia's largest carnivorous dinosaur by its footprints, which were originally discovered in a Queensland coal mine almost 70 years ago. 

"We have seen the Tyrannosaurus Rex in North America, and large predatory dinosaurs in Africa and South America. Turns out ours was in Oakey (Queensland), and it was a badass dinosaur," University of Queensland paleontologist Anthony Romilio told ABC News on Wednesday. "These guys we've got are close to 3 meters (almost 10 feet) tall, something we have not seen in the skeletal fossil remains in this country."

Instead of studying dinosaur bones, Romilio and his team were able to identify the theropod dinosaur by its extra large three-toed footprints found in stone and measuring about 2.6 feet (80 centimeters) long. Romilio shared his findings in a paper published on June 12 in the peer-reviewed journal Historical Biology.

dinofootprint

The fossil footprint of the carnivorous dinosaur from Queensland, both as a photograph and false-color depth map.

Anthony Romilio/University of Queensland

"We estimate these tracks were made by large-bodied carnivorous dinosaurs, some of which were up to 3 meters high at the hips and probably around 10 meters long," Romilio said in a statement Wednesday. "To put that into perspective, T. rex got to about 3.25 meters at the hips and attained lengths of 12 to 13 meters long, but it didn't appear until 90 million years after our Queensland giants."

"At the time, these were probably some of the largest predatory dinosaurs on the planet," he said. 

Even though the initial dinosaur footprints were discovered long ago, the specimens and archival photos of the prints were stored away in the Queensland Museum, perhaps due to the lack of paleontologists then working in Australia. 

Only recently have paleontologists like Romilio taken a closer look at the specimens. They used 3D topography of the tracks to better identify the footprints as belonging to Australia's largest carnivorous theropod dinosaur. 

It's estimated that the dinosaur lived toward the end of the Jurassic period (around 165 and 151 million years ago.)

In addition to the large theropod dinosaur footprints, prints of stegosaurus and other small predatory dinosaurs were also discovered at the site around the 1950s and '60s.