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Rare Dinosaur Tracks Found in the Arabian Peninsula

May 27, 2008

Scientists claim that the recent discovery of two sets of footprints in Yemen is the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula.

The rare set of footprints belong to a herd of 11 sauropods as well as a single two-legged plant-eating dinosaur from the ornithopod family that flourished from the Late Triassic Period to the Late Cretaceous Period.

Researchers say the 150 million-year-old tracks were overlooked until now because they had been hidden by layers of rubble.

The discovery was made by a Yemeni journalist who stumbled upon the first set of impressions in the village of Madar north of the capital Sana’a.

Yet another discovery was made in 2006, when a geologist at Sana’a University in Yemen found a set of elephant-like footprints belonging to the four-legged long-necked sauropods.

Dr Anne Schulp of the Maastricht Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands went out to Yemen to help in the investigation.

“The nice thing about the sauropod tracks is that we’ve got a herd of them, 11 individuals all walking in the same direction,” he said.

“It’s actually a group consisting of different-sized animals, so we’ve got old ones and we’ve got some younger dinosaurs as well, so different age-groups of dinosaurs were living together here.”

Among the very few fossils discovered in the region are a set of bones from Oman and possible fragments of a long-necked dinosaur from Yemen.

“It’s the first time we’ve found dinosaur trackways in the Arab Peninsula so it really is a first,” said Dr Schulp.

“It’s a bit of data from a place that we really don’t know much about yet. There is a lot of potential for more discoveries.”

Scientists wrote in the journal PLoS One.: “Taken together, these discoveries present the most evocative window to date into the evolutionary history of dinosaurs of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Palaeontologist Dr Paul Barrett of London’s Natural History Museum said the new discovery expands knowledge of dinosaurs that roamed the Middle East.

“Dinosaur material is exceptionally rare in this part of the world, and is represented by only a handful of fragmentary fossils,” he said.

“As a result, we know virtually nothing about the animals that once roamed this area. This discovery shows that several different kinds of dinosaur were abundant in the region and starts to fill a large gap in our knowledge of what was going on in the Middle East during the age of the dinosaurs.”

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