A team of researchers have found dozens of giant footprints on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, thought to belong to huge dinosaurs about 170 million years ago.
The discovery, published in the Scottish Journal of Geology, was led by the University of Edinburgh. In total the team found 50 footprints at the headland of Skye’s Trotternish peninsula, at an area called Brothers' Point (Rubha nam Brathairean), in a muddy and shallow lagoon.
By looking at the overall shape of the prints, and even the orientation of the toes and the presence of claws, the researchers were able to work out the dinosaurs they belonged to – sauropods and theropods.
The former would have stood almost 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall at the shoulder and had long necks. The latter, meanwhile, were the older cousins of more well-known three-toed theropods like Tyrannosaurus rex, and would have stood at a similar height.
"The more we look on the Isle of Skye, the more dinosaur footprints we find,” the field team’s leader, Dr Steve Brusatte, said in a statement.
“This new site records two different types of dinosaurs – long-necked cousins of Brontosaurus and sharp-toothed cousins of T. rex – hanging around a shallow lagoon, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance."
The discovery is described as “globally important” because it is a rare find from the Middle Jurassic period, a time for which we don’t have much fossil evidence.
Despite tidal conditions making it difficult to study the footprints, the team were able to observe them using drone photographs to map the site. They discovered the largest of the footprints was around 70 centimeters across, left by a sauropod, while the largest theropod track was around 50 centimeters across.
It follows on from another discovery of sauropod footprints on the Isle of Skye back in 2015. This latest find is thought to be very slightly older though.
“This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye,” Paige dePolo, the study’s lead author, said in the statement.
“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. This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic.”