YORKSHIRE, England – It's the largest of its kind ever unearthed in an England county known for Jurassic finds.
A more than 3-foot-long footprint made by a giant, meat-eating theropod dinosaur was found in Yorkshire. The record-breaking print was found by local archaeologist Marie Woods in April 2021, The University of Manchester said. According to researchers, the footprint appears to capture the moment that the dinosaur rested or crouched down some 166 million years ago.
The findings were part of a study recently published in the Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society journal which confirmed the fossil discovery and its record size.
While it's not every day that a print of this size is found, the Yorkshire coast has been known for fossil finds, including thousands of dinosaur footprints, and is a popular destination for professional palaeontologists.
"I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, I had to do a double take," said Woods who found the fossil by chance. "I have seen a few smaller prints when out with friends, but nothing like this. I can no longer say that ‘archaeologists don’t do dinosaurs.'"
At the time of the discovery, the footprint generated a lot of public interest, and Woods said she was overwhelmed with social media messages from people around the world.
"This important discovery adds further evidence that meat-eating giants once roamed this area during the Jurassic."
Woods said she made contact with local fossil experts, but no one was aware of the track she was describing. She then contacted Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at The University of Manchester.
The university said the three-toed footprint – the largest on record – is one of only six similar prints to have been recorded in the area, the first being found in 1934.
The previous print, on display in the Rotunda Museum, Scarborough, was discovered in 2006, by John Hudson, the lead author of a new study describing the giant find.
"This important discovery adds further evidence that meat-eating giants once roamed this area during the Jurassic," he said.
Hudson adds that the type of footprint, combined with its age, suggests that it was made by a ferocious Megalosaurus-like dinosaur, with a possible hip height as tall as nearly 10 feet.
"Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to be formally described, in 1824," he said.
The specimen was recovered by experienced fossil collectors and sent to Scarborough Museum and Galleries. Researchers there then compared it with similar tracks collected from across the globe, especially in Europe and North America.
The footprint will hopefully go on public display with the museum’s other fossil footprints, once conservation has been completed.