Sussex

Hastings dinosaur footprints exposed by cliff erosion

Dinosaur footprints near Hastings Image copyright University of Cambridge/Neil Davies
Image caption Two large Iguanodontian footprints with skin and claw impressions

Dozens of well-preserved dinosaur footprints from at least 100 million years ago have been uncovered in East Sussex.

At least seven different species were identified by University of Cambridge researchers during the past four winters following coastal erosion along the cliffs near Hastings.

They range in size from less than 2cm to more than 60cm across, and are so well-preserved that even the skin, scales and claws are easily visible.

There are more than 85 markings, all of which date from the early Cretaceous period.

Dinosaur footprints near Hastings Image copyright University of Cambridge/Neil Davies
Image caption A small theropod footprint

The species include Iguanodon and Ankylosaurus, a type of stegosaurus, possible examples from the sauropod group, and meat-eating theropods.

Hastings has long been a site of special interest for fossil hunters with items ranging from fragments of dinosaur bones to complete fish being previously uncovered, but footprints are less common.

The footprints are the first to have been discovered in 25 years, with earlier findings being far less varied and detailed.

Dinosaur footprints near Hastings Image copyright University of Cambridge/Neil Davies
Image caption A close up of a claw impression from an Iguanodontian footprint
Dinosaur footprints near Hastings Image copyright University of Cambridge/Neil Davies
Image caption A large Iguanodontian footprint

The results are reported in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, authored by Anthony Shillito and Dr Neil Davies.

"Whole body fossils of dinosaurs are incredibly rare.

"A collection of footprints like this helps you fill in some of the gaps and infer things about which dinosaurs were living in the same place at the same time," Mr Shillito said.

He added that the "incredible detail" clearly showed "the texture of the skin and scales, as well as four-toed claw marks".

The area where the footprints were found was likely near a water source, and in addition to the footprints, a number of fossilised plants and invertebrates were also found.

Dinosaur footprints near Hastings Image copyright University of Cambridge/Neil Davies
Image caption A large Iguanodontian footprint, with mud squeezing up between the toes

More dinosaur footprints are thought to be hidden within the eroding sandstone cliffs, but the researchers said the construction of sea defences meant they could "remain locked within the rock".

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