A group of paleontologists have discovered the largest dinosaur footprint ever found. The footprint, which measured 42 inches long and 30 inches wide, was found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
Footprints left by dinosaurs have been discovered in Mongolian deserts in the past. The newly found footprint, however, stands out because of its record-breaking size.
The footprint belongs to a titanosaur. Titanosaurs were a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs that roamed Earth between 70 and 90 million years ago.
The herbivores are known to be the largest creature to ever walk on Earth. They had long tails and are distinguished for their long neck that could reach up to 50 feet long or six times longer than that of the giraffe. These creatures could weigh up to 90 tons and stand more than 60 feet tall when fully grown.
"They were really stupidly, absurdly oversized," paleontologist Michael Taylor, from the University of Bristol in England described these creatures. "In our feeble, modern world, we're used to thinking of elephants as big, but sauropods reached 10 times the size elephants do. They were the size of walking whales."
The giant print is one of several footprints that were discovered last month during a joint Mongolian-Japanese expedition. The fossil was found in a geologic layer that formed between 70 and 90 million years ago.
The print was a natural cast as sand flowed into the dents that were left when the humongous prehistoric creature stomped on what was once a muddy ground.
"This is a very rare discovery as it's a well-preserved fossil footprint that is more than a metre long with imprints of its claws," the Okayama University of Science said.
The giant footprint joins other fossils that are found and studied to better understand the life and behavior of dinosaurs and similar ancient creatures before man roamed Earth millions of years ago.
Footprints left by dinosaurs allow scientists to know the habitat and behavior of these Jurassic giants.
Last year, a group of researchers reported the discovery of a collection of sauropod footprints in Scotland. Analysis of these footprints showed that sauropods spent some significant amount of time in the water albeit these giant animals were neither swimmers nor primarily water inhabitants.
Sauropods were onced believed to have settled in swamps because of the species' seeming inability to support their weight on land. This idea, however, was refuted in the 1970s when skeletal structures showed that they were well adapted to a terrestrial habitat.