Massive dinosaur footprints found in Scotland could shed light into a little-understood time period

Courtesy of Paige dePoloThe sauropod footprints, with a rock hammer for scale.
  • Massive dinosaur footprints were discovered by researchers in Scotland.
  • The footprints, which belonged to a species of long-necked dinosaur called sauropods, were dated to 170 million years ago.
  • There are only a few confirmed fossils from that time period, so these finds may help scientists paint a better picture of life in that era.

Researchers identified huge dinosaur footprints in the tidal areas of Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye, and the finds could shed new light on a little-understood time period over a hundred million years ago.

The study was published in the Scottish Journal of Geology on Monday, part of a joint research effort between scientists at the University of Edinburgh, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The researchers found over 50 footprints, created around 170 million years ago – the middle Jurassic period, from which only a few fossils have been found – by a species of long-necked dinosaur called sauropods.

The footprints were first spotted by a student in 2016 on Skye, the study’s co-author, Steve Brusatte told CNN.

SauropodsCourtesy of Paige dePoloSteve Brusatte (left) and Jon Hoad examine sediment on Skye.

“We regularly go there to hunt for dinosaur footprints and clues, when the tide went out we noticed them,” Brusatte told CNN.

After the first footprints were spotted, the researchers analysed them using drones and field-based techniques to create a comprehensive map of the site.

The researchers believe the largest footprint belonged to a 10-ton beast that may have been almost 50 feet long.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the fossilized prints is that they were laid down side-by-side with theropod prints, which are predecessors of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. This indicates that the two species – one predator and one herbivore – could have coexisted peacefully when the Isle of Skye was much warmer.

“This new site records two different types of dinosaurs – long-necked cousins of Brontosaurus and sharp-toothed cousins of T. rex – hanging around a shallow lagoon, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance,” Brusatte wrote on the University of Edinburgh’s website.

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