Science

Dinosaur thought to be a carnivore is actually a timid VEGETARIAN that lived 220 million years ago

Not so scary after all! Dinosaur fossil previously thought to be a terrifying ‘raptor-like’ carnivore is actually a timid VEGETARIAN that lived 220 million years ago, new analysis reveals

  • The fossilised footprints were discovered in a mine more than 50 years ago
  • An initial analysis indicated the belonged to a massive theropod predator
  • But new 3D scans have confirmed they were actually left by a Prosauropod 


A dinosaur fossil that was previously thought to be a terrifying ‘raptor-like’ carnivore is actually a timid vegetarian that lived 220 million years ago, a new analysis has revealed.

The fossil footprints were found in an Australia mine around 50 years ago, and were thought to belong to a massive theropod predator.

However, a new analysis by researchers from the University of Queensland has confirmed that the prints were actually left by a Prosauropod – a small and timid vegetarian.

Hendrik Klein, co-author of the study, said: ‘This is still a significant discovery even if it isn’t a scary Triassic carnivore.

‘This is the earliest evidence we have for this type of dinosaur in Australia, marking a 50-million-year gap before the first quadrupedal sauropod fossils known.’

A new analysis by researchers from the University of Queensland has confirmed that the prints were actually left by a Prosauropod – a small and timid vegetarian (artist’s impression pictured)

The fossils were discovered more than 50 years ago around 200 metres deep underground at an coal mine just west of Brisbane.

Dr Anthony Romilio, who led the study, said: ‘It must have been quite a sight for the first miners in the 1960s to see big bird-like footprints jutting down from the ceiling.’

Researchers from the University of Queensland have now reanalysed the footprints, having suspected something was not quite right with the original analysis.

The fossils were discovered more than 50 years ago around 200 metres deep underground at an coal mine just west of Brisbane

The fossils were discovered more than 50 years ago around 200 metres deep underground at an coal mine just west of Brisbane

Dr Romilio explained: ‘For years it’s been believed that these tracks were made by a massive theropod predator that was part of the dinosaur family Eubrontes, with legs over two metres tail.

‘This idea caused a sensation decades ago because no other meat-eating dinosaur in the world approached that size during the Triassic period.

‘Unfortunately, most earlier researchers could not directly access the footprint specimen for their study, instead relying on old drawings and photographs that lacked detail.’

The new analysis indicates the tracks were made by a dinosaur known as a Prosauropod – a vegetarian that was smaller, with legs about 1.4 metres tall and a body length of six metres (artist's impression)

The new analysis indicates the tracks were made by a dinosaur known as a Prosauropod – a vegetarian that was smaller, with legs about 1.4 metres tall and a body length of six metres (artist’s impression)

While the mine has long been closed, geologists mapped the trackway and made plaster casts of the fossils in 1964, which the researchers used in the new analysis.

‘We made a virtual 3D model of the dinosaur footprint that was emailed to team members across the world to study,’ Mr Klein said.

‘The more we looked at the footprint and toe impression shapes and proportions, the less they resembled tracks made by predatory dinosaurs – this monster dinosaur was definitely a much friendlier plant-eater.’

Rather than being left by a carnivorous raptor-like dinosaur, the new analysis indicates the tracks were made by a dinosaur known as a Prosauropod – a vegetarian that was smaller, with legs about 1.4 metres tall and a body length of six metres. 

KILLING OFF THE DINOSAURS: HOW A CITY-SIZED ASTEROID WIPED OUT 75 PER CENT OF ALL ANIMAL AND PLANT SPECIES

Around 66 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world’s species were obliterated.

This mass extinction paved the way for the rise of mammals and the appearance of humans.

The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.

The asteroid slammed into a shallow sea in what is now the Gulf of Mexico.

The collision released a huge dust and soot cloud that triggered global climate change, wiping out 75 per cent of all animal and plant species.

Researchers claim that the soot necessary for such a global catastrophe could only have come from a direct impact on rocks in shallow water around Mexico, which are especially rich in hydrocarbons.

Within 10 hours of the impact, a massive tsunami waved ripped through the Gulf coast, experts believe.

Around 66 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world's species were obliterated. The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (stock image)

Around 66 million years ago non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out and more than half the world’s species were obliterated. The Chicxulub asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (stock image)

This caused earthquakes and landslides in areas as far as Argentina. 

While investigating the event researchers found small particles of rock and other debris that was shot into the air when the asteroid crashed.

Called spherules, these small particles covered the planet with a thick layer of soot.

Experts explain that losing the light from the sun caused a complete collapse in the aquatic system.

This is because the phytoplankton base of almost all aquatic food chains would have been eliminated.

It’s believed that the more than 180 million years of evolution that brought the world to the Cretaceous point was destroyed in less than the lifetime of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which is about 20 to 30 years.

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