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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Out of Africa
Tracks  BBC
Tracks suggest Italy was not an island
By the BBC's Toby Murcott

Fossil tracks found in Southern Italy suggest the Italian peninsular was connected to Northern Africa during the reign of the dinosaurs.

A hundred and thirty million years ago a group of dinosaurs walked across a muddy plain, leaving a trail of sixty massive footprints behind them.

The tracks solidified into rock - and have just been uncovered by a team of geologists from the University of Ferrara in Italy.

Some of the footprints have been identified as belonging to an Iguanadon, a nine metre long, five-tonne dinosaur.

The herbivorous creature is similar to dinosaurs that lived in North Africa - and this suggests that Southern Italy was connected to Africa a hundred and thirty million years ago.

Geological evidence supports the idea that Italy and north Africa are made from the same rocks - but up to now it was thought that the Italy of today was just a group of islands off the African coast.

But giant dinosaurs like the Iguanadon could not have survived on small islands - so the footprints are strong evidence that Italy was part of continental Africa.

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