Dozens of Dinosaur Footprints Found in Scotland Shed Light on Prehistoric Evolution

Monday, 02 April 2018 - 8:23PM
Monday, 02 April 2018 - 8:23PM
Dozens of Dinosaur Footprints Found in Scotland Shed Light on Prehistoric Evolution
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Flickr/Tadek Kurpaski
Finding a single dinosaur footprint tends to be a big deal for paleontologists. Finding several dozen is an even bigger deal.

And about 50 footprints were just discovered in a muddy lagoon on the north-east coast of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. They're thought to be about 170 million years old from the mid-Jurassic period, and belong to some species of long-necked sauropods, the most famous of which is the brachiosaurus.

Some footprints from theropods were also found - these would be ancestors and older cousins of the Tyrannosaurus rex, which lived much later in the Cretaceous period.

What makes this especially significant is that very few fossils or footprints (or anything, really) have been found from the middle Jurassic period, which stretched from 201 million - 145 million years ago. With this, we can learn a little more about some "missing links" from within different dinosaur species, and what would eventually lead to a T. rex almost 100 million years later.

The footprints were also tough to study, as the Scottish tides and weather were not kind to the researchers as they tried to take photos, and in some cases, drones had to be used to get decent photography. 

Paige dePolo, the lead author of the new research from the University of Edinburgh, said the following in a press release:

Opening quote
"This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye. It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known. This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic."
Closing quote

These are far from the oldest dinosaur footprints we've ever found (although we did recently find some of the oldest human footprints ever), but they're important nonetheless. The shape of the footprints, the toes and presence of claws all have something to offer as we continue to piece together the prehistoric giants who have likely evolved into today's birds.

And even if some people just know brachiosaurus or diplodocus as "the long necked dinosaurs", everybody loves sauropods.
Science News