Discovery of Hadrosaur footprint over 30 years ago was first dinosaur fossil finding in Scotland

Recent discoveries in Patagonia and other parts of South America as part of a four-year study has revealed a ‘mass grave’ littered with charred bone fragments of the ‘duck-billed’ Hadrosaur which has helped describe how changing environmental conditions led to the extinction of dinosaur life.

But did you know in June 1982 researchers from the University of Leicester Department of Geology discovered the first ever recorded dinosaur fossil in Scotland, dating back 175 million years to the mid-Jurassic Age?

J. Andrews and J. Hudson discovered the three-toed (tridactyl) dinosaur footprint -spanning 49cm in length - on a muddy limestone from the Lonfearn Member of the Lealt Shale Formation at the Isle of Skye.

Footprint
Trotternish (Isle of Skye) dinosaur footprint; oblique frontal view.
The dinosaur was initially thought to belong to the carnivorous ‘Theropod’ suborder but later was assigned to the ‘Ornithopod’ suborder due to the lack of claw marks and large width of the footprint.

Hadrosaurs were common bipedal herbivores during the Upper Cretaceous Period (100.5 – 66 million years ago) in what we know today as Asia, Europe and North America.

The Isle of Skye has been dubbed the ‘Jurassic Isle of Scotland’ as it contains fossilised deposits of both herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs.

It is rumoured to hold the record for the smallest recorded dinosaur footprint – measuring only 0.7 of an inch. However the exact species of dinosaur has remained a mystery.

Dugald Ross, Director of the Staff in Museum at the Isle of Skye, has previously said: “Exposures of middle Jurassic deposits are rare worldwide so these discoveries are of international interest”.

The paper from 1982 entitled ‘First Jurassic dinosaur footprint from Scotland’ is available here.