Fossil Tracks In China Show Sauropods Were Walkers, Even Though They Could Swim

Posted: Feb 18 2016, 10:01am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Dinosaur's footprints
Photo credit: Getty Images

A new study titled “Digit-only sauropod pes trackways from China - evidence of swimming or a preservational phenomenon?” and published in the journal Scientific Reports by a team of researchers from the University of Bristol and the China University of Geosciences in Beijing state sauropods could have walked on their hind feet even though they had the ability to swim.

The researchers were forced to research this fact because of some unusual dinosaur tracks found in northern China. The tracks were possibly made by the two hind legs of sauropod dinosaurs even though they were four-legged, causing scientists to wonder why only two feet prints were visible in the sediments when the extinct animals possibly walked on all fours.

This led scientists in past studies to surmise that the footprints could have been made by dinosaurs who were swimming, wading through the water with their weight imposed on their hind legs which made the imprints in the sand sediment. The scientists said the bodies of the dinosaurs were made buoyant in deep water as they waded across in a manner that made only their hind legs to be imprinted into the sediment. Meanwhile, many scientists continue to debate the ability of dinosaurs to swim.

Now the new research shows that fossil imprints from the Gansu Province of northern China could have only been made by dinosaurs which walked, and not swam. The feet-only tracks were dated to over 120 million years ago during the Lower Cretaceous period, with the marks perfectly matching those of Brontosaurus and Titanosaurus among other plant-eating, long-necked dinosaurs.

"Nobody would say these huge dinosaurs could stagger along on their hind legs alone – they would fall over,” revealed lead author Lida Xing. “However, we can prove they were walking because the prints are the same as in more usual tracks consisting of all four feet, it's just that here, we don't see the hand prints. If they had been swimming, with the hind legs dangling down, some of the foot prints would be scratch marks, as the foot scrabbled backwards."

That the tracks are visible means the animals must have walked on soft sand. Most of the animal's weight was towards the rear, and so the hind-feet pressed deeper. The front feet, on the other hand, did not apply enough pressure to make a lasting mark.

"This is not to say that sauropods did not swim,” said co-author Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences. “We are simply suggesting that a closer study of the details of fossil footprints and the sediments can suggest a rather less romantic idea. The loss of hand prints is down to sedimentology, not dinosaur behavior."

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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