In Africa, there are remains of footprints that resemble those of birds that date back around 210 million years (can you believe that?!). Researchers have started looking at these fossils more closely, and what they discovered is quite fascinating! In spite of the fact that these footprints had been known about for a considerable amount of time, a group of researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa decided to take a more courageous approach and conduct a more in-depth investigation of the fossils, which were actually collected from four different locations within the region.
Our findings suggest that there are two distinct Trisauropodiscus morphotypes, one of which resembles footprints made by birds. Fossil tracks can be used to infer ancient diversity, ethology, and evolutionary trends, explained Miengah Abrahams and Emese Bordy, both geologists.
When the researchers focused their attention on the records that were discovered at the Maphutseng site, which was a stretch of tracks that was 80 meters in length, they were able to distinguish between two distinct types of footprints (morphotypes), that fall under the Trisauropodiscus category. How impressive! This was actually the name that was previously given to these three-toed, bird-like footprints. Researchers believe that the earliest progenitors of birds left behind footprints that belong to the second morphotype group.
What does that mean? Well, dinosaurs could have begun displaying certain characteristics similar to those of birds much earlier than fossil evidence shows. Insane!
Despite the fact that the quest for a fossil that can provide more information about the animal that left these tracks continues, the research provides a fascinating look across hundreds of millions of years, revealing how birds have developed since that time. Moreover, the experts believe that it would have been some three-toed archosaur, an important part of the evolutionary tree that has resulted in the existence of both birds and crocodiles in the present day.