More is being discovered about sauropods thanks to findings such as the recent Scottish ones. © CoreyFord/iStock
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have discovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Skye dating to the Middle Jurassic period.
Although this was a key time in dinosaur evolution, there are not many fossil records from the time that have so far been found anywhere in the world, making this find hugely important.
Stephen Brusatte, along with his colleagues Thomas Challands, Dugald Ross and Mark Wilkinson, recorded the discovery in the Scottish Journal of Geology.
Their article reveals how few fossils had up to now been found in Skye, only sparse bones, teeth, footprints and small segments of trackways belonging to dinosaurs.
The team reports that their discovery is the most extensive dinosaur fossil site yet known in Scotland: a coastal outcrop of the Duntulm Formation (Bathonian) at Cairidh Ghlumaig, Skye that preserves numerous trackways of sauropod dinosaurs in multiple layers deposited in a lagoonal system.
The scientists have identified the tracks as most likely belonging to a primitive, non-neosauropod species that retained a large claw on manual digit I and produced narrow-gauge trackways.
They believe their finds provide additional evidence that basal sauropods persisted deep into the Middle Jurassic, a time when the earliest members of larger and more derived sauropod lineages were radiating.
Their paper states: “The new Skye tracks document multiple generations of sauropods living within the lagoonal environments of Jurassic Scotland, and along with other tracks found over the past two decades, suggest that sauropods may have frequented such environments, contrary to their image as land-bound behemoths.”
To read more about the new golden age of fossil discovery see the January issue of BBC Wildlife, on sale 22 December
Bill Oddie relates his adventures with dinosaurs here