October 7, 2009

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Footprints May Be Largest Ever Recorded

French researchers claim they have uncovered what are likely the biggest dinosaur footprints in the world, left by giant sauropods that may have weighed 40 tons or more, AFP reported.

The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) said a pair of amateur fossil-hunters discovered an extraordinary track of footprints in April this year in the Jura plateau at Plagne, near the southeastern city of Lyon.

Professional paleontologists authenticated the find and said the prints are among the biggest seen so far.

The CNRS said the tracks formed by the footprints extend over dozens, even hundreds, of yards.  Over the next few years, further digs may reveal that the site at Plagne is one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

The prints were dated to the Upper Jurassic period, around 150 million years ago, when a warm, shallow sea covered the area. They entail circular depressions in chalky sediment.

The CNRS said the prints are very big, reaching 3.9 to 4.9 feet across, which corresponds to animals exceeding 30 or 40 tons in weight and measuring more than 81 feet in length.

However, experts say they were not the largest dinosaurs that ever lived.

Amphicoelias fragillimus is speculated to be between 131-196 feet long and up to 122 tons in weight, and Argentinosaurus, between 98-110 feet and as much as 80-100 tons.

The long-necked, four-footed herbivores known as sauropods were the largest dinosaurs to exist.

Fossilized bones, however, which are sometimes single or fragmented, often spark heated debate over the true size of the ancient beasts.

CNRS/Hubert Raguet


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