In a shallow, muddy lagoon on the coast of the rather small Scottish island Skye old traces have been discovered – very old traces: Paige dePolo from the Geology Center of the University of Edinburgh and her colleagues have found there around 50 footprints of dinosaurs. The tracks are 170 million years old and thus date from the Middle Jurassic era.
The study of the individual footprints was difficult, which was partly due to the weathering and the changes in the landscape over millions of years. In the best preserved tracks, the researchers were able to analyze the overall shape of the foot, the shape and orientation of the toes and the claws. The results showed that the imprints of dinosaurs come from the groups of sauropods and theropods. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have now published the results of their studies in the journal Scottish Journal of Geology.
Sauropods are considered the largest animals in the history of the earth on land and can reach a head-hull length of several tens of meters. The found footprints belong to animals that were up to two meters high. The largest found imprint of the sauropod in the lagoon was, according to the scientists, about 70 centimeters long. In addition, the research team found on the coast several 50 centimeters long traces of animals from the group of theropods, which were the older relatives of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
In addition to individual, isolated footprints discovered the paleontologists on the orientation of the tracks two ways of dinosaurs. The scientists also used aerial drone imaging to drypoint the site. In addition, they took more pictures with bespoke software to make models of the footprints and further explore the footprints.
The study director Paige dePolo is currently doing her Masters in Paleontology and Geobiology at the University of Edinburgh. The found traces are the second discovery of sauropod footprints on the island of Skye, she shared. Being older than the imprints found on other parts of the island, they show that sauropods lived there earlier than previously thought.
The Middle Jurassic is still largely unexplored, worldwide there are so far only a few fossils from this period. All the more spectacular are the new discoveries from Scotland: they are extremely rare testimonies from this age and can provide conclusions about the evolution of dinosaurs. Therefore, the research team is already quite modest in speaking of a find of “global significance”.