140-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Footprints Discovered In Dorset Quarry

Some 140 million years ago, giant herbivore dinosaurs known as sauropods walked the Cretaceous stretch of land that is now the Swanage landscape of Dorset, in the U.K.

These magnificent animals — which at one time gave rise to the largest creatures that ever roamed the Earth, namely the megaherbivores of the Mesozoic Era, the Inquisitr previously reported — left behind a set of footprints, a testament of their passage through the shallow lagoons along Britain's Jurassic Coast.

The sauropod footprints were recently discovered by a group of workers from the Purbeck stone quarry, who stumbled upon the Cretaceous vestiges buried under several layers of rock, the Daily Star reported on August 1.

At the time the footprints were made, this side of the Jurassic Coast was coated in a blanket of soft mud that preserved the impressions all those millions of years until they were unearthed by the British quarrymen.

All in all, 30 sauropod footprints were found at Lewis Quarries in Langton Matravers.

The dinosaur footprints were safely extracted during a 10-day operation, conducted under the guidance of Prof. Matthew Bennett from Bournemouth University.

"The footprints are like giant saucer-shaped depressions which are up to three feet [0.9 meters] in diameter but only half an inch [1.27 centimeters] deep," Bennett said in a statement. "They belonged to the sauropods, which were very large dinosaurs the size of double-decker buses and very gregarious, traveling in groups."

Paleontologists now believe both sets of footprints were made by the same sauropod herd as it made its way along the south coast of modern-day England.

"What is remarkable is that the tracks at both adjacent quarries were probably made by the same animals moving along the coast," said Bennett.

The footprints were successfully excavated without being damaged and will soon go to a museum for display — "possibly the Etches collection in Kimmeridge," the professor pointed out.

The sources note that Lewis Quarries was closed for the entire duration of the archeological dig.

"It became apparent that we had come across something of historical interest, so we got in touch with the National Trust and Professor Bennett," said David Moodie, general manager of Lewis Quarries.

Despite having to shut down the quarry for 10 days, Moodie confessed that "it was exciting to be involved in the project and learn more about the dinosaurs who roamed here."

Those particular footprints — 50 impressions belonging to both sauropods and theropods, a dinosaur family that includes Tyrannosaurus rex — were even older than the ones found at Purbeck, dating back 170 million years ago, to the Middle Jurassic.

Meanwhile, the recently found sauropod footprints are believed to be only 140-million-years-old, dated to the more recent Lower Cretaceous period.