A giant bird foot dinosaur ran 150 million years ago across a muddy mudflats in present-day Yemen. Image: Nancy Stevens
In Yemen, three paleontologists have uncovered a unique testimony from the Middle Ages: fossilized dinosaur footprints show that flocks of giant four-legged dinosaurs with long neck, known as sauropods, passed through the Wadden Sea 150 million years ago. At the same time populated large bipedal herbivores, the bird foot dinosaurs or ornithopods, the area, the researchers report to Anne Schulp. The Arabian Peninsula has so far been an almost blank spot on the map of vertebrate fossils from the Earth's Middle Ages. So far only isolated bones have been found there. Because the Arabian Peninsula was not yet separated from Africa by the Red Sea, finds from the area could provide interesting clues to the African fauna. The footprints that Schulp and his colleagues now describe were discovered in 2003 by a journalist about 50 kilometers north of the capital Sana'a.

The three paleontologists exposed several meters long tracks. They found that a series of round footprints belonged to a sauropod herd. The eleven long-necked lizards of different sizes moved side by side at a steady pace through the silt. The hind feet were on average 57 centimeters long and 46 centimeters wide, the fore feet a little smaller. The animals were related to the largest representatives of the gigantic sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus. However, the researchers could not determine the nature of the prints alone.

In addition, there were 14 footprints of a relatively large two-legged dinosaur at the site. From the threefold form of the imprints, the researchers concluded that it was an ornithopod. To this group counted for example the well-known Iguanodon and the so-called duck bill dinosaurs, the Hadrosaurier. Many researchers also call the ornithopods "Cows of the Earth's Middle Ages". Schulp and his colleagues now hope to find in the previously barely studied region also bones from the Jura, which could give them information about the distribution of various dinosaur groups.

Anne Schulp (Natuurhistorisch Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands) et al .: Plos ONE, vol. 3, no. 5, e2243 Ute Kehse advertisement

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