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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK


Dino steps revealed in cliff fall

Claws indicate a meat-eating dinosaur

Take a close look at the tracks
Fossil footprints from what may be a previously unknown species of dinosaur have been discovered in Yorkshire, England.

They appeared after a section of sandstone cliff collapsed on a beach near Scarborough.

BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh: "This is a special find"
The scientists who found the tracks say they are about 175 million years old. Geologists Dr Gordon Walkden and Dr Mike Simmons noticed the tracks during a field trip they were running for fourth-year students at the University of Aberdeen.

[ image: The scientists' conclusions need to be tested]
The scientists' conclusions need to be tested
They have recorded several sizes of print which range up to 25cms across. In most cases, the creature that made them is known. However, there is one set of impressions that are proving hard to identify.

"They have something like a 10cm spread of the foot and what has been left behind is a very clear impression of claws," said Dr Walkden.

"From the print we can work out the shape of the foot and can go back to what is known of the fossils and try to match it up," he said.

Dr Gordon Walkden: "This is an exciting find"
"We can't do that at the moment - which means we are possibly looking at a species of dinosaur we haven't seen before.

"The presence of sharp claws on the ends of the toes is a clear indication that they ate meat. And that puts them in the same batch of dinosaurs as velociraptor."

[ image: The tracks were uncovered after a cliff fall]
The tracks were uncovered after a cliff fall
The geologist said the "loose conclusions" that had be drawn from the prints now needed to be tested by the wider scientific community. The discovery will be written up, photographed and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Fossil footprints are not common in Britain, said Dr Walkden. "There are only a few places we can get them. We have to search very hard."

The blocks containing the fossils have been cleaned of mud and go on display at the Department of Geology at the University of Aberdeen next month.

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