Storm Ciara might have caused absolute havoc across the whole of the UK, Ireland, and beyond last week, but it has churned up an interesting archaeological discovery in the process.
It’s the footprint of a dinosaur that roamed the Earth at least 130 million years ago, according to fossil experts.
The print, which was discovered on a beach on the Isle of Wight, is thought to be that of an ancient theropod dinosaur known as a Neovenator, or alternatively a Spinosaurus Baryonyx, which is an equally fearsome beast.
The Neovenator – which literally translates as ‘new hunter’ – was a carnivorous dinosaur that was about 7.6 metres long and could weigh up to two tonnes.
Spinosaurus Baryonyx was from the same family, but – it is thought – ate mainly fish.
Neither are characters you’d want to encounter during a peaceful walk down the beach.
Pretty scary to imagine it running around the coastal area of Sandown, then.
The fossil footprint was found a few days ago on 12 February by the Wight Coast Fossils group. It comes just two weeks after a fossilised dinosaur tail was also revealed in the side of a cliff on the same island.
Theo Vickers, from Wight Coast Fossils, said: “All this weather is revealing traces of vanished worlds along our coastline,
“This is a really fascinating example of how events like Storm Ciara continue to expose traces of ancient environments around our geologically unique coastline, often in plain sight.
“Sandown Bay has revealed this beautiful 130 million year old dinosaur track yesterday, preserved in the brightly coloured clay.”
He continued: “The pointed toes of this track may indicate a type of dinosaur known as a large theropod, perhaps Neovenator or the Spinosaurus Baryonyx.
“Our track-maker was crossing this environment 130 million years ago, heading southwest in what is now Sandown Bay, leaving these huge tracks in the boggy soil.
“Behind the dinosaur lay a range of low forested hills, while ahead lay a flat floodplain landscape dotted with forests, river channels and herds of herbivorous dinosaurs.’
“Clay footprints such as these can be relatively common, but do not hold up to the forces of erosion for long.’
“Sadly they will typically disappear in a couple of days or weeks, as the tide wears down the soft clays of the formation, an awesome but fleeting glimpse of a time long gone, lying in plain sight on our coastline.”
Fascinating stuff, that’s for sure.
Neovenator expert Chris Baker, a palaeontologist who formerly worked at the University of Southampton, added: “Neovenator’s skull revealed the most complete dinosaur neurovascular canal, highly branched, nearest the tip of the snout.
“This would have housed branches of the large trigeminal nerve which is responsible for sensation in the face and associated blood vessels.
“This suggests that Neovenator had an extremely sensitive snout – a very useful adaptation, as dinosaurs used their heads for most activities.”