Dinosaurs walked in Scotland

National Geographic marvels at a huge number of very large footprints on the Scottish coast:

The footprints form the largest dinosaur site ever found in Scotland. They also show that sauropods, which included the largest dinosaurs of all time, were at home along the shore.

Now, the new footprints on the Isle of Skye are part of a growing picture that some sauropod dinosaurs also frequented the edges of lagoons and ancient coasts. The geology of the Isle of Skye site presented unequivocal evidence that the dinosaurs were walking around a brackish lagoon.

That initial find turned into a string of tracks over an area measuring about 49 feet (15 meters) by 82 feet (25 meters).

But it’s not just the size of the tracksite that’s remarkable. The Isle of Skye footprints date back to the Middle Jurassic, over 161 million years ago. This, [University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen] Brusatte says, “is one of the most poorly understood time intervals in dinosaur evolution.” The tracks offer a new glimpse into which dinosaurs lived in the area and how they behaved during this mysterious time.

Unless a dinosaur literally dies in its tracks, it’s usually impossible to match a skeletal foot to footprint.

But the tracks preserve enough detail for Brusatte and coauthors to identify them as sauropod dinosaurs—like the embattled Brontosaurus and its relatives—that walked with their legs relatively close to each other along the midline. A good candidate for this sort of trackmaker, Brusatte says, is a Middle Jurassic dinosaur named Cetiosaurus, which also happens to be one of the first dinosaurs ever named.