A perfect fossilized dinosaur footprint was discovered by a 4-year-old girl on a Welsh beach last week. Scientists say the print dates back to the Triassic period, and are calling it “the finest impression of a 215-million-year-old dinosaur print found in Britain in a decade.”
Lily Wilder and her father, Richard, were taking a stroll along the beach in the Bendricks when Lily spotted the print.
Initially, the Wilders thought the print was left behind by an artist, but it was in fact a real grallator, or a three-toed fossilized footprint, left behind by a bipedal theropod dinosaur.
“We weren’t even sure it was real,” said Lily’s mother, Sally, on Jan. 30 in an interview with Wales Online.
“I was imagining an artist had gone down and scratched it out, but I knew dinosaur footprints had been found along that piece of coast before so I just thought I’d ask some people.”
Sally posted a picture of the print on a fossil identification Facebook group. The print, which measures just over 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long, soon caught the attention of the National Museum in Cardiff.
Experts say it would’ve been made by a dinosaur roughly 75 centimeters (29.5 inches) tall and 2.5 meters (98.4 inches) long. This type of dinosaur would have walked on two feet, and likely hunted insects and small animals.
“It’s all been so exciting, discovering that it’s actually what they thought it was,” Sally said.
Karl-James Langford from Archeology Cymru was put in touch with the Wilder family and has been working with the National Museum on relocation of the print.
“It’s so perfect and absolutely pristine,” he said. “It’s a wonderful piece.”
He added that the National Museum recognized the importance of this discovery. After obtaining special permission from Natural Resources Wales, they claimed the print and had it moved to the museum.
“I would say it’s internationally important and that is why the museum took it straight away,” Langford explained. “This is how important it is. I would say it’s the best dinosaur footprint found in the UK in the past 10 years.”
Paleontology curator Cindy Howells, with the National Museum, said that the fossil is remarkably well preserved.
“This fossilized dinosaur footprint from 220 million years ago is one of the best-preserved examples from anywhere in the UK and will really aid paleontologists to get a better idea about how these early dinosaurs walked,” she said.
“Its acquisition by the museum is mainly thanks to Lily and her family who first spotted it.”
Now, Lily has taken a special interest in dinosaurs. Her family says she doesn’t want to do anything else.
“Recently we bought her some dinosaur toys,” Sally said. “She’s been playing obsessively with dinosaurs all week.”
Adds Sally, “What’s amazing is, if her name goes down as the finder in the museum, it could be her grandchildren going to visit that in the museum one day, and for years and years and generations to come, which is quite amazing.”
In a public statement, the National Museum said the print is of particular interest to scientists.
“Its spectacular preservation may help scientists establish more about the actual structure of their feet as the preservation is clear enough to show individual pads and even claw impressions,” the museum said.
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