For almost eight years, scientists have been studying footprints left behind by a gigantic dinosaur in the mountains of France. The animal responsible for the prints, which make up the world’s largest fossilized track, has been named Thunderfoot.
The huge dinosaur footprints were ultimately found to extend over 500 feet through the French village of Plagne in the Jura Mountains.
20 prints were first discovered in 2009 by two scientists from the Oyonnax Naturalists’ Society. Digs at the site unearthed more footprints, and the track was found to contain 110 massive imprints.
The depth and length of the 150-million-year-old tracks exposed the size of the dinosaur, which was as long as three buses. The experts determined that the Sauropod weighed at least 38.5 tons and was 114 feet long.
The footprints featured five elliptical toe marks, while the handprints showed five circular finger marks arranged in the shape of a crescent.
The details of the study have been released to the public by the Laboratoire de Geologie de Lyon. The massive animal was named after the French village where it was discovered. The dinosaur’s scientific name is Brontopodus plagenensis, which means ‘Thunderfoot from Plagne.”
The research institution responsible for the excavation of the Plagne site is the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, or CNRS.
A representative of CNRS said in a statement, “Dating of the limestone layers reveals that the trackway was formed 150 million years ago, during the Early Tithonian Age of the Jurassic Period. At that time, the Plagne site lay on a vast carbonate platform bathed in a warm, shallow sea.”
“The presence of large dinosaurs indicates the region must have been studded with many islands that offered enough vegetation to sustain the animals. Land bridges emerged when the sea level lowered, connecting the islands and allowing the giant vertebrates to migrate from dry land in the Rhenish Massif.”
The Jurassic Period was named after the Jura Mountains because rocks from this time period were found there. The dinosaurs are thought to have left their tracks in the mud, which dried before becoming covered with the water and sediment that preserved them.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Photo Credit: P. Dumas