145-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Footprint ‘Treasure Trove’ Discovered in England

A 'Treasure Trove' of Dinosaur Footprints.

Researchers have discovered a Dinosaur ‘Treasure trove’ with footprints half a meter wide, dating back to around 145 million years in Sussex, England.

The discovery presents new evidence of the types of Dinosaurs that lived in Britain in prehistoric times.

According to reports, researchers have ‘unearthed’ fresh new evidence of fossils belonging to around seven different dinosaur species along the coast of East Sussex.

This is the most diverse collection of Dinosaur footprints in the United Kingdom. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.
This is the most diverse collection of Dinosaur footprints in the United Kingdom. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.

The discovery is being hailed as the most ‘diverse and detailed collection’ of footprints from the  Cretaceous Period in Britain to date.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge helped uncovered the ancient tracks between 2014 and 2018 thanks to periods of coastal erosion due to powerful storms along cliffs near Hastings.

Many of the footprints, ranging in size from less than 2 cm to more than 60 cm in width, are so well preserved that the fine details of the skin, scales, and claws are easily visible.

Interestingly, for the past 160 years, there have been sporadic reports of fossilized dinosaur footprints along the Sussex coast, however, no major discoveries have been described during the last quarter of a century and the earlier findings were much less varied and detailed than the recently uncovered tracks.

Researchers say that the area around Hastings is one of the richest in the United Kingdom in terms of dinosaur fossils. It is precisely there where researchers discovered the first Iguanodontian fossils in 1825 and the first confirmed example of fossilized dinosaur brain tissue in 2016.

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Seen here is a close-up image of skin impressions from an iguanodontian footprint. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.
Seen here is a close-up image of skin impressions from an iguanodontian footprint. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.

“Whole body fossils of dinosaurs are incredibly rare,” explained Anthony Shillito, a Ph.D. student in Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences and the paper’s first author.

“Usually you only get small pieces, which don’t tell you a lot about how that dinosaur may have lived. A collection of footprints like this helps you fill in some of the gaps and infer things about which dinosaurs were living in the same place at the same time.”

Scientists explain that during the Cretaceous Period, the area where the footprints were discovered was likely near a large water source, and in addition to the footprints, a number of fossilized plants and invertebrates were also found.

A close-up image of the claw impressions fro an Iguanodontian footprint. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.
A close-up image of the claw impressions fro an Iguanodontian footprint. Image Credit: Dr. Neil Davies / University of Cambridge.

“To preserve footprints, you need the right type of environment,” said co-author of the study, Dr. Neil Davies.

“The ground needs to be ‘sticky’ enough so that the footprint leaves a mark, but not so wet that it gets washed away. You need that balance in order to capture and preserve them.”

“As well as the large abundance and diversity of these prints, we also see absolutely incredible detail,” explained Shillito.

“You can clearly see the texture of the skin and scales, as well as four-toed claw marks, which are extremely rare.”

Source
University of Cambridge