Scientists have discovered new fossil footprints of dinosaurs along the shores of Scotland’s Isle of Skye, unearthing clues about the strolls taken by the giant reptiles, and the region’s ecosystem between 174 and 164 million years ago.
The researchers, including Paige dePolo from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said this period was a time of major evolutionary diversification in many dinosaur groups.
This region, the scientists said, yielded body and trace fossils of diverse Middle Jurassic ecosystems, serving as a valuable location for paleontological science as well as tourism.
In the study, dePolo and her colleagues described two recently discovered fossil sites preserving around 50 dinosaur footprints on ancient coastal wetlands.
The scientists reported the first record on the Isle of Skye of a track-type called Deltapodus, which they said was most likely created by a stegosaurian (plate-backed) dinosaur.
According to the researchers, these are the oldest Deltapodus tracks known, and the first strong evidence that stegosaurian dinosaurs were part of the island’s Middle Jurassic fauna.
They also found three-toed footprints, representing multiple sizes of early carnivorous theropods, which are dinosaurs characterised by hollow bones and three-toed limbs.
The study reported a series of other large tracks as well, tentatively identified as some of the oldest evidence of large-bodied herbivorous bird-hipped, ornithopod dinosaurs. These discoveries are making Skye one of the best places in the world for understanding dinosaur evolution in the Middle Jurassic.