An international team of paleontologists discovered in China a single footprint left by a cat-sized dinosaur about 100 million years ago.
The investigator of the University of Queensland Anthony Romilio was part of the team that investigated the clue, originally found by Associate Professor Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences.
“This footprint was made by a herbivorous armored dinosaur known widely as a stegosaurus, the family of dinosaurs that includes the famous stegosaurus. Like the stegosaurus, this little dinosaur probably had spikes on its tail and bony plates along its back when I was an adult “, it said in a statement.
“With a footprint of less than six centimeters, this is the smallest known stegosaur footprint in the world.. It is in stark contrast to other stegosaurus tracks found at the Chinese track site that measured up to 30 centimeters, and tracks found in places like Broome in Western Australia, where they can measure up to 80 centimeters, “he added.
The little footprint described in the magazine Palaios, It has characteristics similar to other stegosaurus with three short, broad and round finger marks.
However, the researchers found that the imprint did not elongate like the larger counterpart footprints discovered at the tracking sites, suggesting that the young stegosaurus had different behavior.
“Stegosaurs normally walked with their heels on the ground, just like humans, but on all fours, which creates long footprints,” Romilio said.
“The little clue shows that this dinosaur had been moving with its heel lifted off the ground, like a bird or cat does today. Previously, we had only seen shortened clues like this when dinosaurs walked on two legs.”
Xing said it was plausible that the young stegosaurs were toe walkers. “This could be possible as this is the ancestral condition and posture of most dinosaurs, but the stegosaurus might as well have switched to heel walking as it aged“, He said.
“A full set of clues from these small footprints would provide us with the answer to this question, but unfortunately we only have one footprint.”
Finding the tiny clues in crowded clue sites will be a challenge for investigators. “Footprints made by small armored dinosaurs are much rarer than those made by other groups of dinosaurs”Xing said.
“Now that our study has identified nine different dinosaur footprint sites from this locality, we will look even closer to see if we can find more of these small footprints.”