Revealed: 140-million-year old dinosaur footprints discovered in a stone quarry show how ancient herds of Sauropods used to roam the shallow lagoons along Britain’s Jurassic Coast

  • More than 30 impressions – some measuring 3ft in diameter – were uncovered
  • They were found close to the 52 similar footprints discovered some 21 years ago
  • Experts believe both sets of prints were made by the same herd of Sauropods 
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Footprints made by dinosaurs more than 140 million years ago have been uncovered in a stone quarry in Britain. 

More than 30 saucer-shaped impressions, some measuring almost three foot (0.9m) in diameter, were uncovered by stunned workmen at the Purbeck quarry in Swanage on Britain’s Jurassic coast.

The newly-discovered prints were found just a few hundred yards away from where 52 similar footprints were found 21 years ago.

Experts believe both sets of prints were made by the same herd of huge Sauropods, the largest animal to ever walk our planet.

These dinosaurs, which could live up to 120 years, would have ambled in groups through the shallow lagoons on what is now the south coast of England. 

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A vast collection of 140-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (pictured) have been discovered in a quarry in Britain

Sauropods were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs.

The species, famed for its long necks and tails, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous.

Sauropods, which had relatively small skulls and brains in comparison to the size of the rest of their bodies, stretched to 130 feet (40 metres) and weighed up to 80 tonnes (80,000kg) – 14 times the weight of an African elephant.

The animals would have left footprints in the soft mud along the coastline that was then covered over for millions of years by layers of rock.

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Lewis Quarries in Langton Matravers was shut for 10 days while palaeontologists extracted the footprints following the discovery.

Earlier this year, a set of about 50 footprints made by Sauropods and Theropods was found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

However, these dated back 170 million years to the Middle Jurassic period, whereas the Purbeck stone quarry prints are from the earlier Cretaceous period.


Sauropods (artist’s impression) were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous


More than 30 saucer-shaped impressions, some three foot (0.9m) in diameter, were uncovered by stunned workmen at the Purbeck stone quarry in Swanage on Britain’s Jurassic coast (pictured)


Lewis Quarries (pictured) was shut for 10 days while palaeontologists extracted the footprints following the discovery. Earlier this year a set of about 50 footprints made by Sauropods and Theropods were found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

WHAT ARE SAUROPODS?

Sauropods were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous. 

They had long necks and tails and relatively small skulls and brains.

They stretched to 130 feet (40 metres) and weighed up to 80 tonnes (80,000kg) – 14 times the weight of an African elephant.


Sauropods were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous

They were widespread – their remains have been found on all the continents except Antarctica.  

They had nostrils high up on their skulls – rather than being located at the end of the snout like those of so many other terrestrial vertebrates. 

Some fossils shows that these nostril openings were so far up the skull that there were very close to the eye openings. 

Sauropods such as the Diplodocus began to diversify in the Middle Jurassic about 180 million years ago. 

Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology 

Professor Michael Bennett from Bournemouth University, who oversaw the extraction in Purbeck stone quarry, said: ‘The footprints are like giant saucer-shaped depressions which are up to three foot in diameter but only half an inch deep.

‘They belonged to the Sauropods which were very large dinosaurs the size of double decker buses and very gregarious, travelling in groups.

‘The challenge for us was to extract the footprints without damaging them and now that has been achieved the intention is to put them on display at a museum, possibly the Etches collection in Kimmeridge [a celebrated fossil collection].

‘I’ve spent my life travelling the world to look for fossil footprints so it is nice to find some on our doorstep.’

The remarkable find comes 21 years after 52 footprints were discovered in a flat layer of rock a few hundred yards away at Keates Quarry.

Professor Bennett said it is possible the tracks belonged to the same herd of Sauropods as they made their way along the coast.


The prints were found at a quarry in Langton Matravers near Swanage on Britain’s Jurassic coast


The remarkable find (pictured) comes 21 years after 52 footprints were discovered in a flat layer of rock a few hundred yards away at Keates Quarry


Professor Bennett said it is possible the tracks belonged to the same herd of Sauropods (artist’s impression) as they made their way along the coast


Operations at the quarry had to be closed for 10 days while the extractions took place

‘What is remarkable is that the tracks at both adjacent quarries were probably made by the same animals moving along the coast’, he said. 

‘The dip of the beds, folded when the European Alps were pushed up, means that the tracks are closer to the ground in Keates Quarry where they can be preserved but are much deeper at Lewis Quarries where in situ preservation is not possible.’

The tracks have been captured in three-dimensions so the footprints can be analysed digitally and even printed in the future.

David Moodie, general manager of Lewis Quarries, said: ‘It became apparent that we had come across something of historical interest, so we got in touch with the National Trust and Professor Bennett.

‘We had to shut down operations for 10 days while the extractions took place which posed a challenge but it was exciting to be involved in the project and learn more about the dinosaurs who roamed here,’ he said.


Sauropods (tracks, pictured) were the first successful group of herbivorous dinosaurs, dominating most terrestrial ecosystems for more than 140 million years, from the Late Triassic to Late Cretaceous

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