Monday, 9 April 2018

Rare Scottish dinosaur prints give key insight into era lost in time



April 2, 2018, University of Edinburgh

Dozens of giant footprints discovered on a Scottish island are helping shed light on an important period in dinosaur evolution.

The tracks were made some 170 million years ago, in a muddy, shallow lagoon in what is now the north-east coast of the Isle of Skye.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods - which stood up to two metres tall - and by similarly sized theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex.

The find is globally important as it is rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic period, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers' Point - Rubha nam Brathairean - a dramatic headland on Skye's Trotternish peninsula.
The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape. In spite of this, scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated foot prints.

Researchers used drone photographs to make a map of the site. Additional images were collected using a paired set of cameras and tailored software to help model the prints.

Analysis of the clearest prints - including the overall shape of the track outline, the shape and orientation of the toes, and the presence of claws - enabled scientists to ascribe them to sauropods and theropods.


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