For many years now I have wanted to go to the Isle of Skye; the main reason being this. Now I have a new reason to go. Fossilised footprints of early sauropods have been found on the coastline there dating back some 170 million years. That puts the diplodocus-like animals slap bang in the middle of the jurassic period which, despite being the focus of many a film, is actually a paleontological black hole. very few fossils exist from that time and so every new find is an important one.
As you can see in this image taken by lead author Stephen Brusatte, the trail leads down to what is now the sea. On the right you can see a lens cap placed on top of a cast of one of the prints for scale.They are generally 50-70 cm in diameter which means the animal that made them must have been at least 15 metres long and weighing in at 10 tonnes.
In the middle jurassic this area would have been less rocky and more like a lagoon which extends the range of environments sauropods were known to frequent. The common perception was that they would have stuck to grasslands with plenty of foliage.
Published in the Scottish Journal of Geology this new work details an area of Scotland that was known to be rich in fossils of an otherwise impoverished period in earth’s history.
Header image courtesy of Dinoguy2