Artificial intelligence distinguishes the footprints of a herbivorous dinosaur from a carnivorous one

(ORDO NEWS) — Australian scientists have used a neural network for the first time to analyze dinosaur footprints.

She identified an error in the results of “manual” identification, showing that the tracks of a predatory theropod belong to a completely different – a herbivorous ornithopod.

In the province of Queensland in northwestern Australia, there is unique evidence of a “dinosaur stampede”.

Lark Quarry National Monument preserves thousands of footprints estimated to be between 92 and 104 million years old.

It is believed that they were left by 150 to 180 small ornithopods, which were scared away by the appearance of a predator.

Indeed, against the background of many small footprints, one chain of much larger ones can be traced there.

In recent years, this origin of prints has been questioned. Some paleontologists believe that the numerous footprints at Lark Quarry are associated not with a stampede, but with a ford across a body of water.

And now the very presence of a predator among the mass of herbivorous dinosaurs raises questions. This conclusion was reached by Peter Falkingham and his colleagues from the University of Queensland

Artificial intelligence distinguishes the footprints of a herbivorous dinosaur from a carnivorous one 2
Some of the footprints in the national monument

Large footprints were found at Lark Quarry in the 1970s, usually associated with Australovenator (Australovenator wintonensis) or a related theropod species.

These predatory mobile dinosaurs lived in what is now Australia during the Late Cretaceous, about 100 million years ago. They grew up to six meters in length and gained up to 500 kilograms of weight.

However, identifying a dinosaur by footprint is a difficult and not always accurate task.

Therefore, Fulkingham and co-authors involved in its solution a convolutional neural network, which was previously trained on an array of one and a half thousand footprints of reliably identified footprints of both carnivorous theropods and herbivorous ornithopods.

The accuracy of her work was compared with experts. It turned out that AI recognizes traces much better: its error rate was only about 11 percent.

After analyzing images of large footprints from Lark Quarry, the system unambiguously identified them as ornithopod prints.

This may indicate that the original interpretations of what happened 100 million years ago are indeed wrong.

Perhaps flocks of herbivorous ornithopods crossed the ancient river in this place, leaving many chains of traces.


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