A footprint made by a cat-sized dinosaur approximately 100 million years ago was found in China by an international team of palaeontologists, phys.org reported.
Dr Anthony Romilio, a University of Queensland research, was among the scientists that analyzed the track, initially discovered by Associate Professor Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences (from Beijing).
Dr Romilio explained that the footprint was made by a herbivorous, armoured dinosaur, known commonly as a stegosaur – the popular family of dinosaurs.
“Like the stegosaurus, this little dinosaur probably had spikes on its tail and bony plates along its back as an adult,” said Dr Romilio. He also added that the footprint, under six centimetres, is the smallest stegosaur footprint ever found!
“It’s in strong contrast with other stegosaur prints found at the Chinese track site, which measured up to 30 centimetres, and prints found in places like Broome in Western Australia where they can be up to 80 centimetres.”
The tiny footprint has comparable characteristics to other stegosaur footprints with three short but wide and round toe impressions.
Still, researchers observed that the print wasn’t elongated like larger counterpart prints found at the track sites, which shows that the young stegosaur had a different behaviour.
Dr Romilio explained that Stegosaurs normally walked with their heels on the ground, a lot like humans, but on all fours, resulting in long footprints.
The small track shows that the dinosaur moved with its heel lifted off the ground, a lot like nowadays’ cats and birds do.
“We’ve only previously seen shortened tracks like this when dinosaurs walked on two legs.”
The discovery is impressive, mainly thanks to the record it holds. It may help scientists understand the anatomy of Stegosaurs as they grew.