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Dinosaur footprints in Scotland shed light on lost giants

Giant dinosaur footprints found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland show the ancient paths taken by T. rex's cousins.

This footprint came from a long-necked sauropod.

Paige dePolo

Researchers in Scotland have discovered the dinosaur equivalent of humans stepping in fresh cement. A series of fascinating dinosaur tracks tracing back to 170 million years ago are still visible in a tidal area on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. 

This area was once a shallow lagoon. The tracks show herbivorous sauropods (relatives of the famous Brontosaurus), and theropods (older cousins of the even more famous Tyrannosaurus rex) once strolled through the muddy ground during the Middle Jurassic period. 

This theropod footprint includes a human shoe and camera lens cap for a size comparison.

Paige dePolo

A team of researchers led by University of Edinburgh paleontology student Paige dePolo cataloged around 50 footprints. Drone photographs of the site helped the scientists analyze the fossil tracks.

The University of Edinburgh describes the find as "rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic period, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world." The team published its findings this week in the Scottish Journal of Geology

The paper discusses the importance of the Middle Jurassic, referring to it as a key era in dinosaur evolution at a time when sauropods grew to massive sizes and the early meat-eating tyrannosaurs diversified. 

The footprints help bolster the idea that dinosaurs of that time period spent quite a bit of time hanging out in lagoons.  

The Isle of Skye site joins a list of other trackways discovered around the world, including an impressive sauropod-stomping site in France and a spot in Australia where researchers found some of the most massive dino footprints on record.