170-million-year-old dinosaur footprints discovered may reveal insight on evolution

Scientists on the Scottish Isle of Skye find dozens of dinosaur footprints.

April 03, 2018, 1:01 PM

On the Isle of Skye in Scotland, scientists with the University of Edinburgh's School of Geoscience discovered 170-million-year-old dinosaur footprints that reveal insight into how different dinosaurs may have evolved.

"Anytime we find a new dinosaur, it's really exciting, but beyond that, these [discoveries of footprints] are really important because they are some of the few dinosaur fossils from the middle part of the Jurassic period from anywhere in the world," said Dr. Stephen Brusatte, who led the field work on the study with the university.

PHOTO: A sauropod footprint discovered at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
A sauropod footprint discovered at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
Paige dePolo/Edinburgh University via Reuters
PHOTO: The hiking trail to Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland where scientists have recently discovered sauropod footprints.
The hiking trail to Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland where scientists have recently discovered sauropod footprints.
Jon Hoad/University of Edinburgh

The discovery reveals further evidence that sauropods, one of the types of dinosaur tracks that were found in the Isle of Skye's limestone, spent time in lagoons during the Middle Jurassic time period, he said.

"The site preserves an abundance of small sauropod manus and pes prints and several isolated and broken medium-to-large tridactyl footprints," the scientists published Monday in their corresponding article to their study in the Scottish Journal of Geology.

PHOTO: Tourists visit The Storr on the Isle of Skye, Aug.17, 2017 in Portree, Scotland.
Tourists visit The Storr on the Isle of Skye, Aug.17, 2017 in Portree, Scotland.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images, FILE
PHOTO: The tracksite looking towards Valtos and Kilt Rock Falls, along the coastline of the Isle of Skye in Scotland where numerous dinosaur footprints have been identified.
The tracksite looking towards Valtos and Kilt Rock Falls, along the coastline of the Isle of Skye in Scotland where numerous dinosaur footprints have been identified.
Jon Hoad/University of Edinburgh

They found both tracks of footprints and isolated footprints, he said.

"This new site has about 50 tracks of two different types of dinosaurs -- [The] long-necked behemoth cousins of the brontosaurus and flesh-eating cousins of T. Rex," Brusatte explained of the sauropod dinosaurs.

Fossils from the Middle Jurassic time period are extremely rare, he said.

PHOTO: Scientist Paige dePolo at at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
Scientist Paige dePolo at at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
Shasta Marrero/Edinburgh University via Reuters
PHOTO: A view from the cliff above of the main track-bearing platform where dinosaurs once roamed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
A view from the cliff above of the main track-bearing platform where dinosaurs once roamed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Shasta Marrero/University of Edinburgh

"[This was] when dinosaurs were putting the final flourishes on their rise to dominance," Brusatte said about the time period.

There are probably a few hundred dinosaur footprints that have been discovered on the Isle of Skye, Brusatte estimated.

PHOTO: A sauropod footprint discovered at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
A sauropod footprint discovered at Brothers' Point on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in an undated photograph supplied by Edinburgh University on April 2, 2018.
Jon Hoad/Edinburgh University via Reuters
PHOTO: Scientists mapped the location of dinosaur tracks found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Scientists mapped the location of dinosaur tracks found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
University of Edinburgh

The area is a hotspot for fossil preservation because the coasts are "widely exposed and easily eroded," making it a great area to find fossils, he said.

The scientists are continuing to put together the puzzle on how dinosaurs lived on the Isle of Skye in the Middle Jurassic.

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