The Sheffield Dinosaur Track Research Group has been making a special study of the dinosaur footprints of the Ravenscar Group (middle Jurassic) of the Cleveland area of Yorkshire. In addition related projects are being or have been carried out on aspects of footprint preservation and on the non-dinosaur biotas and sedimentology of the Ravenscar Group.
Trackway of Deltapodus brodricki (pictured, left), which was made by a quadrupedal stegosaurian dinosaur. This track type is most characteristic of the lower part of the Ravenscar Group. The animal here moved with a stride length of 1.0m. The prints of the padded and tridactyl hind foot are 0.40m long and 0.34m wide and the crescentic front foot prints are 0,29m wide. Use the on-line calculator to estimate the speed at which this animal was moving.
Trackway of Deltapodus brodricki
Dinosaur Footprints were first definitely recorded from the Ravenscar Group in 1906 but have generally been regarded as having little more than curiosity value. The work of the Sheffield group has however shown that the footprints are more common and more varied in type than has been generally supposed. This conclusion has been amply supported by the systematic surveying and recording which has been carried out by volunteers on Earthwatch Projects. Over twenty different vertebrate track types including those of sauropods and stegosaurs as well as bipedal theropods and ornithopods have now been identified from the Ravenscar Group.
The studies of the dinosaur footprints are giving an insight into the character and behaviour of the dinosaur communities of the Yorkshire and of how they changed with time and with changes in the local palaeoenvironment. This is increasing our understanding of the environmental history of the local region and of the importance of dinosaurs as an environmental factor within it. In addition information is being gained on the palaeoecology and behaviour of particular dinosaur groups. Trackway information can also be used to shed light on dinosaur gaits and to estimate speeds of movement. The middle Jurassic was a time of diversification of the dinosaurs but in global terms skeletal remains are relatively scarce and thus footprint assemblages such as the Yorkshire material represent internationally significant repositories of information about these dinosaurs.
Dinosaur footprints area a particularly good way of 'Walking with Dinosaurs'.
A co-operative research agreement between Dr Whyte and the Dinosaur Egg Fossil Research Group of Henan Province in China was signed in August 1996. Henan Province has the largest site for dinosaur eggs in the world with an estimated 2 million eggs in an area of about 1000 square kilometres. The sequences there, which are of upper Cretaceous age, are also internationally significant as they may extend up to the time at which the dinosaurs became extinct. The co-operative research is carrying out comparative studies on the preservation of dinosaur fossil-bearing strata, with particular reference to the successions in Yorkshire and Henan. Joint work is also being carried out on the shape and classification and on the biogeochemistry of dinosaur eggs. In addition the two groups are collaborating on the common problem of the conservation and protection of dinosaur sites. As the first phase of this research Dr Whyte, with financial support from the Systematics Association and the Henan Provincial Government, visited the Dinosaur Fossil Egg Research Group in Zhengzhou in August 1997. During this visit collaborative fieldwork was carried out in the Xixia basin and in addition dinosaur egg collections were examined in Zhengzhou, Xixia and Nanyang.
Large clutch of Paraspheroolithus eggs.
The following images of Chinese material are available. These were taken with an AGFA digital camera which was kindly supplied by AGFA Ltd.
- View of countryside in the Xixia Basin. Note the red colour of the rocks which are dipping to the right.
- Dinosaur egg site showing red beds.
- Close up of Paraspheroolithus clutch.
- Macroelongatoolithus eggs.
A further stage in the collaboration took place when Professor Zhang Zhenyu of the Henan Research Institute of Geography visited Sheffield between May 1999 and May 2000 on a Royal Society K.C. Wong Fellowship. In addition Dr M. Whyte visited Henan for joint field-work and museum studies in November and December 1999. During this visit Professor Li, Professor Zhang and Dr Whyte carried out fieldwork in Lingbao in west Henan. There they investigated reports of a very large dinosaur egg, which proved to be the carapace of a fossil giant tortoise. However, when visiting the Nanchou section, they made the first in situ finds of eggshell material from the Lingbao Basin.
- Nanchou section of upper Cretaceous red beds in the Lingbao Basin.
- Large in situ fragment of elongatoolithid eggshell.
- Mr Nieng, Professor Li, and Professor Zhang discussing a find.
For further information on post graduate research in Palaeontology please complete our on-line Postgraduate Enquiry Form or contact:-
Dr M.A. Whyte or Dr M. Romano
Department of Geography,
University of Sheffield,
Sheffield, S3 7HF,
Tel:- (0114) 222 3610/11
Fax:- (0114) 222 3650
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