The footprints were found in 2020 by a visitor to Penarth beach in Glamorgan, Wales, who reported their discovery to scientists at the Natural History Museum in London
Tracks found at a beach in Wales are believed to be “extremely rare” footprints of a dinosaur from more than 200 million years ago.
The footprints were found in 2020 by a visitor to Penarth beach in Glamorgan, who reported the discovery to scientists at the Natural History Museum in London.
Scientists have now revealed they believe the “extremely rare” tracks come from a time when the supercontinent Pangea was still intact.
Initially, the tracks were thought to be part of the “geological process” of the beach and scientists were sceptical about them being footprints.
But further evaluation indicated they were dinosaur tracks from the late Triassic period which is when dinosaurs began to reign supreme on Earth.
The findings were published in the journal Geological Magazine today.
Paul Barrett, anthropology palaeobiologist at the museum and co-author of the study, said in a statement: “We believed the impressions we saw at Penarth were consistently spaced to suggest an animal walking.
“These types of tracks are not particularly common worldwide, so we believe this is an interesting addition to our knowledge of Triassic life in the U.K.”
The footprints were “poorly preserved” but the rims of the tracks were in a consistent, spaced-out length when they were discovered along a 164-foot long area on the beach.
A team of French scientists examining the site in 2010 helped confirm the footprints.
Photos of the prints at that time had “less weathering” and showed toe marks which proved it was an ancient animal.
Mystery surrounds which animal they belonged to, but some prints measured up to 1.6 inches long which indicates it could be from a species of sauropods.
The herbivorous species had long necks and tails with thick legs and were some of the largest dinosaurs to exist.
The brontosaurus is one of the most well-known sauropods – but they existed after these footprints would have been made.
Susannah Maidment, a senior researcher of anthropology palaeobiology at the museum and co-author of the study, said: “We know early sauropods were living in Britain at the time.
“We don’t know if this species was the trackmaker, but it is another clue which suggests something like it could have made these tracks.”
Scientists said it’s likely not all of the footprints came from sauropods and they estimate the tracks are from 201 million-237 million years ago when the present-day UK was near the equator.
Mr Barrett said: “There are hints of trackways being made by individual animals, but because there are so many prints of slightly different sizes, we believe there is more than one trackmaker involved.
“Our record of Triassic dinosaurs in this country is fairly small, so anything we can find from the period adds to our picture of what was going on at that time.”
The tracks will not be removed as it is believed that could result in permanent damage.
Instead, the tracks will be left in place until they are eroded by the tide.