UK’s Youngest Dinosaur Footprints Found
The 110-million-year-old footprints discovered in Kent, southern England, were left by three types of dinosaurs, including theropod, ornithopod, and ankylosaur dinosaurs.
The 110-million-year-old (Early Cretaceous period) dinosaur footprints were discovered in the cliffs and on the foreshore in Folkestone, where stormy conditions affect the cliff and coastal waters, and are constantly revealing new fossils.
“This is the first time dinosaur footprints have been found in strata known as the Folkestone Formation and it’s quite an extraordinary discovery because these dinosaurs would have been the last to roam in this country before becoming extinct,” said Professor David Martill, a paleontologist in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences at the University of Portsmouth.
The Folkestone footprints are thought to be from ankylosaurs, rugged-looking armored dinosaurs which were like living tanks; theropods, three-toed flesh-eating dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex; and ornithopods, plant-eating ‘bird-hipped’ dinosaurs so-called because of their pelvic structure being a little bit similar to birds.
Most of the findings are isolated footprints, but one discovery comprises six footprints.
This trackway was likely left by an ornithopod dinosaur and assigned to the ichnogenus Ornithopodichnus.
“This is a remarkable discovery because the rocks here represented the last time there was land in the British Isle of about 50 million years, during which time the dinosaurs went extinct,” Professor Martill said.
“We have documented the very last dinosaurs to walk in Britain.”
The largest Folkestone footprint measures 80 cm (31.5 inches) in width and 65 cm (25.6 inches) in length and belongs to an Iguanodon-like dinosaur.
“To find such an array of species in one place is fascinating,” Professor Martill said.
“These dinosaurs probably took advantage of the tidal exposures on coastal foreshores, perhaps foraging for food or taking advantage of clear migration routes.”
The discovery is described in a paper published this month in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.
Philip T. Hadland et al. The youngest dinosaur footprints from England and their palaeoenvironmental implications. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, published online June 17, 2021; doi: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2021.04.005