Hundreds of millions of years ago, "a very special sequence of events" took place in what's now the village of Borkowice in central-east Poland. As a result, geologists have discovered several hundred well-preserved dinosaur footprints—showing the extinct animals "running, swimming, resting, and sitting" in muddy earth, says geologist Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki of Sweden's Uppsala University, per Reuters. There are even clear imprints of scaly skin. "I travel around the world, I look at dinosaur tracks, but when I saw these Borkowice specimens, my eyes fell out of my head," Niedzwiedzki says, per Polish News, which reports the collection of fossilized tracks "may be one of the largest in Europe." It's certainly "the best-preserved traces of dinosaurs so far discovered in Poland," according to a research paper.
The "treasure trove" found in an opencast clay mine reveals the movements of at least seven species of dinosaurs, which roamed the area 80 miles south of Warsaw about 200 million years ago, according to the Polish Geological Institute-National Research Institute. "You can read their behavior and habits," says Niedzwiedzki, per Polish News. One imprint shows a dinosaur's front or back legs, per Polish News. Another shows a footprint of a predatory dinosaur measuring 15.7 inches long. There's also evidence of dinosaurs feeding or burying in the ground, Niedzwiedzki notes. "In order for such a state of preservation to be possible, a very special sequence of events had to take place in a short time," geologist Grzegorz Pienkowski of PGI-NRI says in a release.
The dinosaurs would've entered the clay bottom of a lagoon soon after waters retreated. The tracks would've dried before the "quick flooding of the area again and the equally quick covering of the surface by sedimentation of a sandbank," Pienkowski adds. "The sand became, with time, a thick layer, which is why we see the footprints bulging out," Reuters quotes Pienkowski as saying. The team expects to add to the already impressive find. "We already have a few hundred footprints and bones in our Borkowice collection," Pienkowski says. "However, it seems that soon, we'll have a thousand such samples." Per Polish News, Niedzwiedzki adds it's only a matter of time before skulls are found. (These dino tracks reveal a speed monster.)