Dinosaur footprint found by accident on Yorkshire coast 'shows moment megalosaurus crouched or rested on beach'

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A huge dinosaur footprint found by a shellfish collector on a beach near Filey captures the moment the huge reptile was crouching or resting, scientists have revealed.

A study into the discovery made in 2021 by Marie Woods, who stumbled across the incredible fossil while walking on the beach, has now been published ahead of the footprint going on display at the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough.

Paleontologists have identified the metre-long pring as belonging to a giant,carnivorous theropod species that lived on the Yorkshire coast during the Jurassic period – 166 million years ago. The megalosaurus print is the largest ever found in Yorkshire, at 80 centimetres in length.

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Ms Woods said: “I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, I had to do a double-take. I have seen a few smaller prints when out with friends, but nothing like this. At the time of the discovery, it generated a lot of public interest and I was overwhelmed with the messages on social media from people around the globe.”

The 80cm footprint is the largest ever found in YorkshireThe 80cm footprint is the largest ever found in Yorkshire
The 80cm footprint is the largest ever found in Yorkshire

Six similar prints have been recorded in the area from 1934 onwards, the most recent significant find being in 2006.

Local geologist and lead researcher John Hudson said: “This important discovery adds further evidence that meat-eating giants once roamed this area during the Jurassic. The type of footprint, combined with its age, suggests that it was made by a ferocious Megalosaurus-like dinosaur, with a possible hip height between 2.5 and three metres.”

The footprint had to be preserved and removed quickly from the beach for further analysis, as the photos Ms Woods had taken showed ‘extensive fragility’ and it was believed to be at risk of vanishing due to erosion and landslips. Specialist Redcar-based fossil collectors Mark, Aaron and Shae Smith extracted the specimen.

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Dr Dean Lomax, who has co-authored the new study, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Mark, Aaron and Shae for rescuing this important specimen and ensuring that it was saved for science. Now that the specimen has been studied, plans are in motion for it to go on public display, to spark the imagination of the next generation of fossil hunters.”

Dr Mike Romano from the University of Sheffield, who has researched dinosaurs on the Yorkshie coast for 20 years, added: “The east coast of Yorkshire is known as the Dinosaur Coast for very good reasons. A huge number of dinosaur tracks, ranging in the thousands, have been discovered. As a result, this stretch of coastline is considered one of the best places in the world for dinosaur footprints.

" Although first documented way back in 1907, it was not until the 1980s that finds were being reported on a regular basis, until today approximately 25 different types of footprints have been recognised.”

Dr Lomax added: “This is a wonderful find. Not only does this specimen represent the largest theropod footprint found in Yorkshire, but by studying the angle of the footprint, its shape, and the impressions of the claws, the fossil provides insights into the behaviour of this individual from around 166 million years ago. In fact, features of the footprint may even suggest that this large predator was squatting down before standing up."

The footprint has been donated to Scarborough Museums and Galleries.