Giant dinosaurs roamed the Black Hills region of Wyoming about 150 million years ago. These herbivorous dinosaurs were a member of the sauropod family.
A new paper published in the journal PeerJ now describes a foot that likely belonged to a sauropod. The specimen, which measures 3.2 feet wide, was big enough it was immediately apparent that it belonged to an extremely large animal. Scientists aptly nicknamed it "Bigfoot."
The nearly complete foot fossil is composed of 13 bones. It was excavated from a body of rock called the Morrison Formation in 1998. The area has produced numerous dinosaur fossils from the Late Jurassic Period about 155 million to 148 million years ago. Scientists have so far unearthed diplodocuses, allosauruses, and stegosauruses from this area.
Anthony Maltese, from the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Colorado and colleagues used 3D scanning and conducted detailed measurements to compare the specimen to sauropod feet that belonged to other species.
The findings revealed that the foot was unusually large and belonged to an animal very closely related to the Brachiosaurus. This giant dinosaur species was featured in the 1993 dinosaur-themed movie Jurassic Park. The researchers reported that this prehistoric animal stood about 13 feet tall at the hip, which means it is a titanosaur, the largest group of sauropods
"The size of the material and a medially beveled distal articular surface of metatarsal IV imply an identification as a brachiosaurid," Maltese and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published on July 24. "This is the largest pes ever reported from a sauropod dinosaur and represents the first confirmed pedal brachiosaur elements from the Late Jurassic of North America."
Largest Dinosaur Foot Found To Date
Comparison with other sauropod feet revealed that Bigfoot is the largest dinosaur foot found to date.
"There are tracks and other incomplete skeletons from Australia and Argentina that seem to be from even bigger animals, but those gigantic skeletons were found without the feet," said study coauthor Emanuel Tschopp, from the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Paleontology.
The research also showed evidence that the brachiosaurus inhabited a huge area that spanned from the eastern Utah to northwestern Wyoming about 150 million years ago. Dinosaur experts said that this finding is surprising since other sauropod dinosaurs appear to have lived in small areas during that time.