Some imprints are so big, they look like tidal pools. Perhaps that's why the footprints were able to hide in plain sight for years before observant paleontologists spotted the tell-tale signs of dinosaur toes. They're now celebrating the discovery of some 50 rare footprints left by long-necked sauropods and the three-toed theropod ancestors of Tyrannosaurus rex, who roamed the coast of what is now Scotland's Isle of Skye some 170 million years ago. Described in the Scottish Journal of Geology, the two tracks of footprints left in lagoon sediment, along with a scattering of other prints, are among the few known to have come from the Middle Jurassic period and show sauropods were "so successful that they were probably exploring whatever environments they could," Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh tells National Geographic.
It was Brusatte and student Paige dePolo who created 3D maps of the prints found at Brothers' Point in 2016, some as big as car tires, per the Guardian. Sauropod footprints had then been found in one other spot on the island. But these prints are "slightly older" and show "the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known," dePolo says in a release. Brusatte adds the prints prove sauropods weren't just confined to swamps, as was the consensus a century ago. He says they were "so dynamic and so energetic" there was barely a place they didn't explore; their footprints have been found on all seven continents. Researchers expect more prints will be found on Skye, where they've identified other possible trackways, per Nat Geo. (Meanwhile, ancient human footprints are making waves.)