Paleontologists Find New Dinosaur Tracks on Scotland’s Isle of Skye

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Fossil tracks left by a stegosaur on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Image credit: Steve Brusatte.

The footprints of stegosaurs, carnivorous theropods and huge herbivorous ornithopod dinosaurs that date back to 170 million years ago (Middle Jurassic period) have been discovered on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Skye is one of the few places in the world were fossils from the Middle Jurassic period can be found.

Discoveries on the island have provided paleontologists with vital clues about the early evolution of major dinosaur groups, including huge, long-necked sauropods and fierce, meat-eating cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex.

In a new paper published in the journal PLoS ONE, a team of researchers from the UK and Brazil reports 50 new dinosaur tracks from two tracksites at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point).

They include the first record on the Isle of Skye of a track type called Deltapodus, most likely created by a stegosaurian dinosaur.

These are the oldest Deltapodus tracks known, and the first strong evidence that stegosaurian dinosaurs were part of the island’s Middle Jurassic fauna.

Additionally, three-toed footprints represent multiple sizes of early carnivorous theropods and a series of other large tracks are tentatively identified as some of the oldest evidence of large-bodied herbivorous ornithopod dinosaurs.

A snapshot of what the dynamic coastal environment of Skye may have looked like during the Middle Jurassic which bipedal ornithopods, theropods of various sizes, and stegosaurs in the foreground and middle on subaerially-exposed mudflats; in the distance, large sauropods wade in shallow lagoons. Image credit: Jon Hoad.

“These new tracksites help us get a better sense of the variety of dinosaurs that lived near the coast of Skye during the Middle Jurassic than what we can glean from the island’s body fossil record,” said lead author Paige dePolo, a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh.

“In particular, Deltapodus tracks give good evidence that stegosaurs lived on Skye at this time.”

“Our findings give us a much clearer picture of the dinosaurs that lived in Scotland 170 million years ago,” said University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Steve Brusatte, co-author and leader of the field team.

“We knew there were giant long-necked sauropods and jeep-sized carnivores, but we can now add plate-backed stegosaurs to that roster, and maybe even primitive cousins of the duck-billed dinosaurs too.”

“These discoveries are making Skye one of the best places in the world for understanding dinosaur evolution in the Middle Jurassic.”


P.E. dePolo et al. 2020. Novel track morphotypes from new tracksites indicate increased Middle Jurassic dinosaur diversity on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. PLoS ONE 15 (3): e0229640; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229640

Source: /