Researchers have unearthed rare dinosaur footprints in the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The newly found fossils were 170 million years old and belonged to some of the largest animals to ever roam the planet.
As Big As A Car Tire
Some of the tracks were large, as big as a car tire. Researchers think that these were left by the long-necked sauropod, which stood at least 15 meters long, and the similarly sized older cousins of the Tyrannosaurus rex, the meat-eating theropods, which stood at least 2 meters tall.
The footprints are so far the oldest known dinosaur fossils found in Scotland and offer insights on how these creatures thrived during the Middle Jurassic Period.
The Middle Jurassic is considered an important period in the evolutionary history of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, fossils from the Middle Jurassic are rare, making the discovery valuable for researchers. The tracks provide additional evidence that the prehistoric reptiles were widespread in the region at an important time of their evolution.
"The Middle Jurassic was a pretty important time: It was some time around then that the first birds took to the sky, the first tyrannosaurs were evolving, [and] the first really colossal sauropods were getting their start," said University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen Brusatte. "Skye is one of the few places you can find these fossils."
Footprints Made On Very Shallow Water
Brusatte said that the dozens of prints found were made by the prehistoric animals walking in very shallow water. The creatures roamed at the site during the Middle Jurassic, when Skye was part of a subtropical island near the equator and the region was dotted with lagoons, rivers, and beaches.
The researchers said that the tracks provide additional evidence that dinosaurs spent time around lagoons. Brusatte said that during the Jurassic, these creatures became dominant, spreading all over the world, where they lived in a wide range of environments, which include beaches and lagoons.
Sauropods And Theropods Lived Side By Side During Middle Jurassic
The tracks also show that both the long-necked and meat-eating dinosaurs lived on the same site at the same time.
"This new site strengthens the inference, originally based on a previously discovered locality near Duntulm Castle (Duntulm Formation) in northern Skye, that sauropods habitually spent time in lagoons during the Middle Jurassic," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the Scottish Journal of Geology on April 2.