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Largest Discovery of Dinosaur Footprints Found in Portugal

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A team of scientists and experts discovered the largest ever collection of dinosaur footprints in Portugal that date back approximately 129 million years. The fact that over 600 footprints were found on the Portuguese coast proves that dinosaurs inhabited the peninsula millions of years ago.

A total of ten Portuguese paleontologists and geologists were involved with the discovery in addition to several specialists from France, Spain, and Brazil.

Silvério Figueiredo, who is the president of the Portuguese Center for Geohistory and Prehistory, stated that the dinosaurs that lived there during the Lower Cretaceous Period consisted of herbivores (such as sauropods or ornithopods) as well as carnivores (like theropods).

Figueiredo noted that the footprints were found in an area of over 1,350 meters (4,429 feet) and that the creatures would have arrived from “shallow marine environments, lagoons and estuaries, on which sediments of limestone, marl and sandstone were deposited.”

As for what types of dinosaur tracks were found, the director of the study specified them by explaining, “There were three large groups: theropods (93) sauropods (324) and ornithopods (197), that is, 15 percent of the tracks belong to carnivores while 85 percent are herbivores.”

The experts went on to say that they found odd characteristics in how the creatures walked (they didn’t drag their tail); their favored hunting grounds; and how they were alone when catching their prey.

Pictures of the footprints can be seen here.

In other dinosaur news, a new study has suggested that the reason why it took them 15 million years to travel from South America to Greenland was due to the climate.

Sauropodomorphs first evolved in South America (Argentina and Brazil) and later migrated northwards approximately 214 million years ago. During that time, they lived on the supercontinent Pangaea so it shouldn’t have taken them 15 million years to travel to the Northern Hemisphere.

Dennis Kent, who is an author of the study, described how incredibly long it took the dinosaurs to travel north, “In principle, the dinosaurs could have walked from almost one pole to the other.” “There was no ocean in between. There were no big mountains. And yet it took 15 million years. It’s as if snails could have done it faster.”

But experts believe they have an explanation for the exceptionally long journey. During that time, there was a significant drop in carbon dioxide levels on Earth (about 10-5 times the level we have today) which would have changed the climate and probably allowed the dinosaurs to have an easier time traveling.

Kent explained this in further detail, “We know that with higher CO2, the dry gets drier and the wet gets wetter.” He stated that it’s possible that the drop in the CO2 levels/better climate created preferable passages through the hot and humid locations around the equator. On the other hand, the timing of the drop in the CO2 levels and the dinosaurs’ migration could be nothing more than a coincidence although they did adapt much better in Greenland.

Kent went on to say, “Once they arrived in Greenland, it looked like they settled in,” adding, “They hung around as a long fossil record after that.”

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where it can be read in full.

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