Dinosaur tracks unearthed on Scottish island

 

If you haven't heard of the Isle of Skye, imagine Middle Earth meets Jurassic Park.

On Tuesday, researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Staffin Museum and Chinese Academy of Sciences announced the discovery of dozens of fossilised dinosaur footprints found on the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland.

The prints belonged to two distinct species of dinosaur and are roughly 170 million years old. Researchers say it's impossible to tell exactly which species these were. We know they were sauropods (a family long-necked herbivores, including the likes of Brontosaurus) and theropods (carnivores and older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex).

The tracks of two distinct species of dinosaur have been embedded in the rock for some 170 million years.
Image Credit: Jon Hoad 

A footprint left by a sauropod 170 million years ago.

A footprint left by a sauropod 170 million years ago.
Image: paige depolo

The footprints were first discovered by a student two years ago in 2016, and since then the field work has included the use of drones to map the site. It was particularly tricky to map, as the tracks were found on a tidal platform at Brothers' Point.

Brothers' Point, Rubha nam Brathairean, Skye.

Brothers' Point, Rubha nam Brathairean, Skye.
Image: Steve brusatte

"Tracks themselves are always interesting because they record moments in time when real animals were interacting with their environment," Dr Steve Brusatte who led the field work told Mashable. He also said that the rock where the prints were found was formed in an "ancient lagoon", meaning these dinosaurs were "wading in shallow water" when they made them.

Scientist Paige dePolo, who led the study, measuring the tracks in the rock.

Scientist Paige dePolo, who led the study, measuring the tracks in the rock.
Image: Shasta Marrero

"What we don't see is really any sign that these dinosaurs were doing anything that interesting," Brusatte said. "They were just kind of loitering in this lagoon."

"They weren't chasing each other, they weren't hunting each other," said Brusatte. "This is just a snapshot of what looks to be a day in the life of some 170 million year old dinosaurs."

The prints are of particular significance because they are "rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic period, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world," according to Edinburgh University's press release.

The study of the footprints was released in the Scottish Journal of Geology.

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