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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 00:23 GMT 01:23 UK
Dinosaurs make tracks on the isles
Skye beach
Fifteen footprints were found on the beach
Fossilised dinosaur footprints found on a Scottish island have been hailed as the biggest and best ever unearthed north of the border.

Experts say the tracks were probably made by huge meat-eating dinosaurs which left their prints in the sand 165 million years ago.

Scientists have described the discovery on the east coast of the Isle of Skye as significant.

Cathie and Paul Booth with a footprint
Cathie and Paul Booth with one of the footprints
The first print was spotted on a beach looking across to Staffin Island, off Skye, by local hotelier Cathie Booth.

She was out walking her dog when she saw intriguing marks on a loose slab of rock.

She and her husband Paul called in experts from the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow.

They confirmed that she had found a dinosaur footprint from the Jurassic period.

Further searches in the area revealed a total of 15 sets of tracks.

Rock horizon

Each footprint is made up of three huge toes in an arrow-head formation.

It is not clear exactly what sort of dinosaur left the marks.

However, it was thought to be something like the Megalosaurus, a 10m long meat eater which walked on two legs.

Scientists say the tracks are important because they are still in the rock horizon where they were formed.

Dr Neil Clark
Dr Neil Clark wants to preserve the discovery
Dr Neil Clark from the Hunterian Museum said: "Dinosaur remains are very rare in Scotland, and every attempt should be made to protect them.

"Sadly, these footprints were found on a beach that is battered by winter storms."

This means that the footprints are being eroded by the tide and will eventually disappear.

"It is important that we have a permanent record of these footprints in our museums before tidal erosion destroys them or sand engulfs them," he said.

Palaeontologists are now embarking on a project to make casts and moulds of the tracks to preserve them for the future.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
John Morrison reports from the Isle of Skye:
"The footprints have been concealed by tons of sand"
The BBC's Huw Williams
"No-one knows exactly what kind of dinosaur left the foot prints"
See also:

27 Aug 02 | Scotland
17 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
11 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
30 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
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