An international team of paleontologists has found a single footprint of a cat-sized dinosaur in the Xinjiang province of China. The footprint is 5.7cm long and it is believed to be 100 million years old. This is the smallest footprint of a cat-sized dinosaur found so far in the world. The cat-sized dinosaurs are known as Stegosaurus. The details of the findings were shared in a report published in the journal Palaios. University of Queensland researcher Dr Anthony Romilio was part of the team that investigated the track. The track was first found by Associate Professor Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing).
Dr. Anthony Romilio said the young dinosaur probably had spikes on its tail and bony plates on its back. The footprint (less than 6cm) is in strong contrast with other stegosaur prints at the Chinese track site which measured up to 30 cm, suggesting that the little dinosaur may have been only 60 cm long.
Researchers have found a total of 10 other ancient track sites in the area, with the first discovered in 2011. The tracks were made on a muddy surface by the shores of an ancient lake.
This footprints track, originally found by Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences, is similar to other stegosaurus footprints in terms of toe impressions. However, scientists found the print wasn’t elongated like larger counterpart prints, which suggests the young stegosaur had different behavior.
Dr Romilio said that the tiny track shows that this dinosaur moved with its heel lifted off the ground, much like a bird or cat, as opposed to others that moved on their heels. The only last time such shortened tracks were seen previously when dinosaurs walked on two legs.
Associate Professor Xing added that it was possible young stegosaurs were toe-walkers. A complete set of tracks of these tiny footprints would provide us with the answer to this question, but unfortunately, we only have a single footprint.
However, finding the tiny tracks on crowded sites could be challenging.