Researchers Have Found The Smallest Dinosaur Footprints On Earth

The Dino that left the footprints behind was a raptor the size of a sparrow, which you could have easily held in your hand.

Image Credit: Professor Kyung Soo Kim

An international team of paleontologists has discovered the smallest dinosaur footprints in the world in South Korea. With only one centimeter in length (footprint), the ‘Mini Dino’ that created them roamed the Earth some 110 million years ago and was the size of a sparrow.

Researchers believe that the tiny sparrow-like creatures were sort of like carnivorous raptors, one of the Dinosaurs popularized in “Jurassic Park”. It lived in what is today part of South Korea.

However, experts still do not know whether the small footprints belonged to a fully-grown adult, or to a ‘Baby Dino’ that had yet to fully develop.

The dinosaur has been named Dromaeosauriformipes rarus.

Handheld Dino

“The dinosaur that made them was an animal you could have easily held in your hand,” explained Anthony Romilio from Australia’s University of Queensland, lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports.

The research included scientists from South Korea, the United States, China, Spain, and Australia.

“The diminutive sizes of these new tracks are extraordinary; the tracks were made by tiny dinosaurs about the size of sparrows,” he explains.

“Raptors placed only two of their toes on the ground, while the third toe was retracted like a cat’s claw.”

The Dino’s footprints were initially found by Professor Kyung Soo Kim, from the Chinju National University of Education (South Korea).

Researchers led by Romilio were able to calculate an estimated size of the dinosaur after careful measurements and multiplying the Dino footprint by 4.5 to arrive at an approximate hip height.

Scientists say that the Cretaceous lake deposits at the site where the footprints were discovered created the necessary conditions that allowed the footprints to remain undamaged until today.

The newly found Dinosaur tracks belonged to an animal that was similar to a Microraptor, the most abundant non-avialan dinosaurs in its ecosystem inhabiting the Earth some 120 million years ago.

But experts say that the footprints they discovered although similar, did not belong to the Chinese Microraptor.

“Very small dinosaur species like the Chinese Microraptor were crow-sized, but these had feet too large to match the South Korean footprints,” Dr. Romilio explained.

“If the tracks were made by dinosaur chicks, we are unclear as to the specific dinosaur that made them, since dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Utahraptor had larger feet then the ones discovered in these new tracks,” explained Professor Kim.

“In addition to tiny dinosaur tracks, we have footprints made by birds, pterosaurs, lizards, turtles, mammals, and even frogs.”

“We have named these small tracks Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, which means rare footprints made by a member of the raptor family known as dromaeosaurs,” Professor Kim concluded.

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