Making tracks – understanding megafauna footprints


What we’ve got here is a cast of a trackway — a series of footprints — that were found in western Victoria. The rock that this is made of is volcanic ash and cinders that have been lain down after an eruption. This particular trackway was made by a Diprotodon, which is the largest marsupial that ever existed. And for some reason the prints haven’t been disturbed; they’ve dried, they’ve hardened and then they have been covered up by some other form of sediment.

Sixty thousand years later a farmer sees this coming out of a dry lake and notifies someone, and this is the end result.

Well trackways are great because they give you information that you can’t get from bones, isolated bones, not even from skeletons, because this is the evidence of a living animal.

Well the animal is walking that way and the long shapes are the back feet and these crescent shapes are the front feet, and they’re actually the tips of the front feet and they’re partially being obscured because the back foot is walking in the trackway of the front foot.

Just before the Diprotodon moved along here, another creature walked at right angles. You can see the trackways running right along here, you can see the little indents made by its front and back claws and — it’s a wombat. We’re not sure the type of wombat, whether it’s a Common Wombat like we have today or one of the bigger ones like Ramsayia that existed in those times as well.

There is about 10 or 12 sets of trackways like this throughout the site. There are only three good mammal trackways in Australia and this is the finest. It’s got the most diverse number of animals being portrayed on these trackways and they’re in particularly fine condition so you pick up a lot of detail.

About this Video

David Pickering, Museum Victoria, explains what can be learned from this trackway of fossil footprints.
Length: 2:21