Scientists are proclaiming a 'globally important' breakthrough in the understanding of dinosaurs after a study into footprints found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have announced the results of a study into 170-million-year-old footprints on the Scottish island, which are rare examples from the middle Jurassic Period.
They have revealed that the footprints were made by sauropods and therapods - sauropods are the long-necked, long-tailed, small-headed dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurs, Brontosaurs and Diplodocus, while therapods include small-armed, hollow-boned dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Giganotosaurus and Velociraptors.
"This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye," said Paige dePolo, who helmed the study, which was a joint operation between the University of Edinburgh, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Staffin Museum.
"It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known. This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic."
"The more we look on the Isle of Skye, the more dinosaur footprints we find," added Dr Steve Brusatte, from the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University, who headed operations on the ground.
"This new site records two different types of dinosaurs - long-necked cousins of Brontosaurus and sharp-toothed cousins of T-Rex - hanging around a shallow lagoon, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance."
The research was particularly challenging as the footprints were found in a site that was subject to weathering by the waters at Brother's Point on the Trotternish peninsula on Skye.
There were around 50 footprints in the water, but climatic variations, the tide, weathering and other factors made it difficult to ascertain which dinosaurs had made them.
They had been left in the Middle Jurassic period - some 174 to 163 million years ago - when the Earth was splitting from one single landmass, Pangaea, into two continents.
The Atlantic Ocean was in the process of forming at the time and the climate in Scotland, where the footprints were left, was warm enough to support dinosaurs of the size of sauropods.
The Trotternish peninsula on the northern tip of Skye is one of the few parts of the UK in which footprints from the Middle Jurassic have been found.