Experts in the United Kingdom have announced a major discovery of ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ ғooтᴘʀιɴтs, that are at least 100 million years old and possibly older. The prints were found in Hastings, sussᴇx on the south-east coast of England.
They are believed to be the most diverse and important collection of prehistoric ғooтᴘʀιɴтs yet found in England. This find is one that is exciting the experts because it is allowing them to better understand ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs at a particularly important time.
Storms Reveal Ancient ғooтᴘʀιɴтs
For the past four years experts from the world-famous Cambridge University have been engaged in an extensive study of an area on the coast of sussᴇx, neat Hastings. Their research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, allowing them to investigate a section of the coast that has suffered heavy erosion because of storms.
The erosion means that rocks in cliffs are now exposed and bear traces of prehistoric animals. Since 2014 until the present, the team have been looking for the remains of ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs on the wind-swept sussᴇx coast and their hard work and effort has really paid off.
Since the start of their excavations, 85 ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ ғooтᴘʀιɴтs have been identified in the exposed sandstone cliffs mid-way between Hastings and Fairlight. The prints range in size from less than half an inch (2cm) to more than 23 inches (60cm) across.
The set is remarkably varied and very well-ᴘʀᴇsᴇʀvᴇᴅ and according to the BBC “even the skin, scales, and claws are easily visible.” The local newspaper the Hastings and St Leonards Observer reported that they are the “largest and best ᴘʀᴇsᴇʀvᴇᴅ found in the area” for many years.
Seven Species of ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ ғooтᴘʀιɴтs Found
It is believed that some seven different species of ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ ғooтᴘʀιɴтs have been unearthed. Among the prints uncovered is one that belonged to a member of the iguanodontian family, a species of prehistoric herbivores, which was about 9 feet (2.8 meters) tall.
Then there are some traces of an ankylosaur, a heavily armored creature and one of the last of the true ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs, which measured some 18 feet (6 meters) in length.
Another print was possibly from a stegosaur and there are some from members of the sauropod species, possibly related to the well-known Brontosaurus. There are also ғooтᴘʀιɴтs, of some ‘predatory theropod ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs’ reports The Independent.
How Old Are the ғooтᴘʀιɴтs and ғossιʟs?
Based on an examination of the prints it has been calculated that they are between 100 and 140 million years old. This would mean that they belong to the early Cretaceous period, which saw the mass extinction of the ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs.
Apart from the ғooтᴘʀιɴтs, some ғossιʟs have also been found mainly of plants but also of some invertebrates.
An Area Rich in Hidden ғossιʟs
This part of the sussᴇx coast has long been a rich source of ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ ғossιʟs since the early nineteenth century. This area played a particularly significant role in the development of the science of paleontology and the first known Iguanodon was discovered here.
The discovery of the sets of ғooтᴘʀιɴтs is the second significant find here in recent years, in 2016 some ‘ғossιʟιzᴇᴅ ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ brain tissue’ was found according to Cambridge University.
Understanding the World of the ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ
The Cretaceous-era ғooтᴘʀιɴтs are especially important for experts, because there are so few complete ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ skeletons available. Science Magazine reports that the “collection’s diversity and detail will provide new insights into the creatures of the Cretaceous.”
Anthony Shillito, a PhD student has stated that the finds can “fill in some of the gaps and infer things about which ᴅιɴosᴀuʀs were living in the same place at the same time,” reports the Cambridge University website.
It seems that the impressions were originally made near a water source. They can be compared to other discoveries and this can allow researchers to identify what were the key species in this era.
Furthermore, the ғooтᴘʀιɴтs are allowing experts to determine how the prehistoric creatures impacted on their environment, for example, did they influence the flow of rivers because of their sheer size and extraordinary bulk.
Scientists Now Hope for More Erosion!
The experts will be hoping for another severe winter, because the storms on the sussᴇx coast will reveal more prints and maybe even important ғossιʟs. There are great hopes that there are still major finds locked in the sandstone and that erosion will disclose them to the light for the first time in millions of years.
However, costal defenses are planned for the Hastings area and this could slow erosion and mean that fewer ᴅιɴosᴀuʀ traces and ғossιʟs will be exposed in the coming years.