The 2.4-inch-long (6-centimeter) print appears to have been left by a young stegosaur about the size of a cat. The three stubby toes are typical of this kind of dinosaur. The print dates back to around 100 million years ago and was discovered in China.
Other stegosaur prints found at the same track site have been measured at up to 11.8 inches (30 centimeters). Some tracks in Australia reached 31 inches (80 centimeters). Besides the small size, there's something else unusual about the footprint found in China.
"Stegosaurs typically walked with their heels on the ground, much like humans do, but on all fours which creates long footprints," said researcher Anthony Romilio in a University of Queensland statement last week. "The tiny track shows that this dinosaur had been moving with its heel lifted off the ground, much like a bird or cat does today."
Lead author Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing would like to answer the question of why the stegosaur was tiptoeing. A single footprint isn't enough to draw conclusions from. Said Xing, "Now that our study has identified nine different dinosaur track sites from this locality, we will look even closer to see if we can find more of these tiny tracks."