This is the kind of story that makes archeologists, covered in dust and sweat and still searching for an elusive dinosaur bone fragment, cry in their cold tents at night. A family walking along a beach in Wales was startled when the four-year-old girl looked down and said, “Daddy, look at this.” When Daddy looked, instead of a coin or a dead fish – the kinds of things four-year-olds normally find on the beach – he saw what looked like a well-defined dinosaur’s footprint on a rock. And not just an ordinary dinosaur’s footprint either.
“This fossilised dinosaur footprint from 220 million years ago is one of the best-preserved examples from anywhere in the U.K. and will really aid paleontologists to get a better idea about how these early dinosaurs walked.”
It’s enough to make an experienced, long-searching, frustrated paleontologist cry, but Cindy Howells is the curator at the Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum of Wales Palaeontology and she’s thrilled to have the rock with a small three-toed footprint (paleontologists call it a Grallator) stomped on it. (See the photo here.) In fact, that’s how four-year-old accidental paleontologist Lily Wilder described to the CBC the sound the dinosaur made.
“Stompy stomp stomp!”
While walking on the beach at Bendricks Bay near Barry in south Wales, Lily and her father, Richard Wilder, should not have been surprised to find a fossil since the beach is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which contains many fossils and geological features that require careful site management in order to protect and preserve them. The footprint was in a large rock, so Richard took a photo of it, which showed it “was almost like someone had etched into the rock.”
“It was small.”
While Lily might possibly have preferred finding a footprint from the creature that inspired her toy T-Rex, this one is just over 10cm (4 inches) long and probably ‘stomped’ by a dinosaur that was about 75cm (30 inches) tall and 2.5m (8.2 feet) long, walked on two hind legs (one of which made the footprint) and ate small animals and insects. Paleontologists who looked at the print have been unable to identify the species.
While paleontologists probably don’t shout that when finding a dinosaur footprint – even one as well-defined as the one Lily spotted – they can certainly understand her reaction to finding out that the museum display of the rock and fossil will feature a plaque listing her as its discoverer.
Hey paleontologists – if you’re still feeling depressed and frustrated, try a few “Yuppees!” Or maybe a “Stompy stomp stomp!”