A group of researchers from the Edinburgh University has discovered giant prehistoric dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Sky. According to the researchers, these dinosaur footprints were made in a muddy lagoon almost around 170 million years old. The researchers found around 50 dinosaur footprints that were made on Isle of Skye’s Trottenish peninsula.
Dr. Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who was the leader of the field team stated, “The more we look on the Isle of Skye, the more dinosaur footprints we find.” After analyzing the ancient dinosaur footprints, the scientists got to know that the foot prints belonged to the theropods and the sauropods. Most of the footprints were made by the theropods, the “older cousins” of Tyrannosaurus rex and the remaining footprints were of the long-necked sauropods, the cousins of Brontosaurus.
Brusatte said that the footprints were made in a shallow lagoon at the time when Scotland was much warmer and the dinosaurs were beginning their march towards global dominance. The research team has described the latest dinosaur footprint discovery as globally important because they belong to the middle Jurassic era. And finding dinosaur footprints or fossilized remains from the mid-Jurassic period is very rare around the world. Previously, in 2015, the researchers had discovered similar type of ancient dinosaur footprints in the Isle of Skype.
But what made the latest discovery more interesting and important is its place. The dinosaur prints were discovered in older rocks. “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,” said, Paige dePolo, the lead author of the study.
For the research, Brusatte and his team used drone cameras to map the new site. Then they took photographs of the dinosaur footprints and then measured and analyzed them. They discovered two ancient dinosaur trackways and also many isolated footprints. Among them, the largest footprint measuring 70cm across was of a sauropod and the largest footprint among theropod measured around 50cm across. According to the scientists, the latest discovery could throw some light into how and in what conditions the dinosaurs lived during the mid-Jurassic era. The study was published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.
Theropods are a dinosaur suborder characterized by hollow bones and three-toed limbs. They are generally classed as a group of saurischian dinosaurs, though a 2017 paper has put them in a proposed clade Ornithoscelida, along with the Ornithischia. Theropods were ancestrally carnivorous, although a number of theropod groups evolved to become herbivores, omnivores, piscivores, and insectivores. Theropods first appeared during the Carnian age of the late Triassic period 231.4 million years ago (Ma) and included the sole large terrestrial carnivores from the Early Jurassic until at least the close of the Cretaceous, about 66 Ma. In the Jurassic, birds evolved from small specialized coelurosaurian theropods, and are today represented by about 10,500 living species.
Sauropods are an infraorder of saurischian (“lizard-hipped”) dinosaurs. They had very long necks, long tails, small heads (relative to the rest of their body), and four thick, pillar-like legs. They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land. Well-known genera include Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.
Sauropods first appeared in the late Triassic Period, where they somewhat resembled the closely related (and possibly ancestral) group “Prosauropoda”. By the Late Jurassic (150 million years ago), sauropods had become widespread (especially the diplodocids and brachiosaurids). By the Late Cretaceous, those groups had mainly been replaced by the titanosaurs, which had a near-global distribution. However, as with all other non-avian dinosaurs alive at the time, the titanosaurs died out in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Fossilised remains of sauropods have been found on every continent, including Antarctica.