During the Early Cretaceous, a small two-legged dinosaur walked across a stretch of fine-grained mud following a rainstorm.
The resulting footprints became locked in stone, but unlike other fossilised dinosaur tracks, these 120-million-year-old fossils show skin impressions across the entire footprint, in what is considered an unprecedented discovery.
Fossilised dinosaur footprints are fairly common in the pale ontological record, but a mere 1 per cent of these tracks exhibit evidence of skin.
New research published in Scientific Reports is “the first report for any dinosaur of skin traces that cover entire footprints, and every footprint in a trackway,” according to the authors of the new paper.
The impressions, made by bipedal dinosaur known as Minisauripus, represent the “highest resolution of detail yet recorded for any dinosaur skin impressions,” noted the researchers, a team led by Kyung-Soo Kim of South Korea’s Chinju National University of Education.
The new paper describes four distinct tracks along a single pathway, plus an isolated fifth track from an unconnected slab.