Scientists have discovered the footprints of an anthracosaur in rock in Cape Breton. This dinosaur looked like a crocodile and lived in swampy areas at the time.
As always, paleontology's great discoveries are made by chance, and this one is no exception to that rule. A Cape Breton University student noticed the markings while exploring the Creeignish Rocks in Inverness County in November for other reasons.
After consulting with his teacher Jason Loxton and New Brunswick Museum Assistant Curator Matt Stimson, these marks are in fact prints. Rare and ancient traces from a world that has now disappeared.
Scientists estimate they are about 320 million years old, at the end of the Carboniferous and the beginning of the formation of Pangea, at a time when Cape Breton was a dense swamp with a tropical climate.
These prints are the size of my hand, an adult's hand. They are those of a large animal, explains Jason Loxton from Cape Breton University.
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Jason Loxton, a geology professor at Cape Breton University, was one of the first to see the footprints.
Photo: Radio-Canada / George Mortimer
The geology professor adds that they are literally the fingerprints of an animal that drags its legs while swimming and brushes against the ground.
The Anthracosaurus, a super predator in Nova Scotia
We don't know the exact animal that left these tracks, but given the time period, the size and the shape of the feet, we can say that it was probably an anthracosaur, a transitional animal between amphibians and land reptiles. There are a few other possibilities, but this is probably the most likely animal, says Matt Stimson, associate curator at the New Brunswick Museum.
Anthracosaurus has an elongated body, a large flat head and short, massive legs. An appearance reminiscent of a crocodile. It moved between water and land.
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Ted Matheson, a geology professor at Cape Breton University, and Jessica MacIsaac, a graduate student, examine the landscape near Creignish, where Matheson discovered the first fossilized tracks.
Photo: Other image databases / Jason Loxton
The discovery is of great importance to these scientists, who are used to discovering footprints and fossils just a few centimeters in size in this part of the province.
It's a new piece in the paleontological puzzle of the Cape Breton region.
The discovery of this large footprint left by a super-predator at the top of the food chain at this point is a significant discovery, adds Matt Stimson.
The find was made on a sandstone block that was two meters long, one meter wide and about 15 centimeters thick. Currently, scientists don't know if they can safely move this block to show the public. If not, it could be reproduced in 3D.
With information from Information Morning Sydney