The Isle of Wight, located off the southern coast of England, is known as the “British capital of dinosaurs.” Over 25 species of prehistoric reptiles, which lived there approximately 125 million years ago, have been discovered on the island. However, recently, scientists have made an extraordinary discovery that could change our understanding of these ancient creatures.
While conducting flood prevention work on the beach near the town of Yaverland, engineers from the Environmental Agency stumbled upon dinosaur footprints hidden beneath layers of sediment. With the assistance of paleontologists from the Dinosaur Museum in Sandown and the University of Southampton, they identified the footprints as belonging to a Mantellisaurus – a large and heavy herbivore with uniquely shaped three-toed feet.
Mantellisaurus was one of the most commonly encountered dinosaurs in Europe during the early Cretaceous period. Its body could reach up to 7 meters in length and weighed around 750 kilograms. The name “Mantellisaurus” is derived from Gideon Mantell, a British doctor and paleontologist who first described this species in 1825. A complete Mantellisaurus skeleton was found on the Isle of Wight in 1917 and remains one of the best-preserved fossils in the United Kingdom.
The discovery of Mantellisaurus tracks on the Yaverland beach is surprising because it was previously believed that this species primarily inhabited other regions of the island’s southern coast. This suggests that Mantellisaurus had a broader geographical range than previously thought and that its population was diverse and abundant. It may also indicate that the Isle of Wight was a rich and diverse environment for many dinosaur species and other organisms.
Scientists hope to find more fossil material related to Mantellisaurus and other dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight. At the same time, they plan to continue building flood and erosion protection systems, considering the valuable paleontological discoveries. As Nick Gray from the Environmental Agency said, “The dinosaurs living where our team works combine the ancient with the most current: contemporary challenges related to combating climate change with times we can only imagine.”
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Written by: Patryk Zbik
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