Jurassic Dinosaur Footprints Found on Scotland’s Isle of Skye

Thursday, April 5, 2018

© Mark Stevenson / UIG / Getty Images


An international team of paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh, Staffin Museum and Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered a new dinosaur tracksite at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point) on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The tracks were made by massive dinosaurs some 170 million years ago (Middle Jurassic period), in a muddy, shallow lagoon.

The site preserves an abundance of small sauropod and several isolated and broken medium-to-large theropod footprints.

The trackmakers of sauropod prints are estimated to have stood 5-8.2 feet (1.5-2.5 m) at the hip – fairly large, but not as colossal as famous species like BrontosaurusDiplodocus and Brachiosaurus.

In addition to the sauropod tracks, several theropod tracks are present at the site. These tracks reflect medium-sized individuals — with estimated hip heights ranging from 2.9 to 7 feet (0.87-2.13 m) — that spent some time in the same lagoonal environment as the small sauropods.

“The more we look on the Isle of Skye, the more dinosaur footprints we find,” said team member Dr. Steve Brusatte, from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

“This new site records two different types of dinosaurs — long-necked cousins of Brontosaurus and sharp-toothed cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex — hanging around a shallow lagoon, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance.”

Photograph and line drawing of a sauropod footprint, one of the most striking at Brothers’ Point on the Isle of Skye; it preserves evidence of a possible fleshy heel pad in addition to four distinct toes. Image credit: dePolo et al, doi: 10.1144/sjg2017-016.

The find is globally important as it is rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world.

“This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye,” said team member Paige dePolo, also from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences.

“It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known.”

“This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic.”

The researchers measured, photographed and analyzed about 50 footprints at the site.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape.

In spite of this, the team identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

The team’s results were published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.


Paige E. dePolo et al. A sauropod-dominated tracksite from Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point), Isle of Skye, Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology, published online April 2, 2018; doi: 10.1144/sjg2017-016

Source: www.sci-news.com