Scientists find first dinosaur tracks on Arabian peninsula

May 21st, 2008 - 2:27 pm ICT by admin  

Dubai, May 21 (IANS) The scientific community is abuzz with something rarely seen in the Arabia peninsula - dinosaur tracks. Footprints of ornithopod, a large dinosaur, as well as a herd of 11 small and large herbivorous sauropods were found preserved along a Mesozoic coastal mudflat in the Republic of Yemen, according to a study published in the scientific journal PLoS One.

“No dinosaur trackways had been found in this area previously. It’s really a blank spot on the map,” said Anne Schulp, who led the study.

Schulp conducted the study with Ohio University palaeontologist Nancy Stevens and Mohammed Al-Wosabi of Sana’a University in Yemen.

The finding also is an excellent example of dinosaur herding behaviour, the researchers report. The site preserved footprints of 11 small and large sauropods - long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods - travelling together at the same speed.

“It’s rare to see such a big example of a dinosaur herd,” Schulp said. “This is interesting social behaviour for reptiles.”

A Yemeni journalist spotted one of the trackways in 2003, about 50 kilometres north of the capital Sana’a in the village of Madar.

Stevens, Al-Wosabi and Schulp identified it as the footprint of an ornithopod, a large, common plant-eater sometimes referred to as the “cow of the Mesozoic”, Schulp said. It walked on its hind legs.

Only a few dinosaur fossils have been reported so far from the Arabian peninsula, including isolated bones from Oman, which Schulp has studied, and possible fragments of a long-necked dinosaur from Yemen.

Though ornithopods and sauropods overlapped in time, it’s a bit unusual to find evidence of such a big ornithopod in the late Jurassic period, the researchers noted.

“We really want to learn when did which dinosaurs live where, and why was that?” Schulp said. “How did the distribution change over time, why did one replace another and move from one place to another?”

The researchers agreed that discoveries from Yemen could yield more answers to those questions.

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