An analysis of three-toed, meat-eating dinosaurs has revealed that they may have sprinted faster than a car being driven on the city roads. The footprints, left behind by these theropods over lakebed mud tens of millions of years ago, were studied by scientists. The researchers discovered two sets of fossilised footprints in Spain’s La Rioja region and carried out an extensive study.
According to the findings, published in the journal Nature on December 9, the makers of the footprint may well have galloped at speeds of up to 44.6 km/hour. The study claimed that 44.6 km/h was “some of the top speeds” ever calculated for theropod tracks.
The analysis of the two sets of footprints gives us a glimpse into the mobility and behaviour of the creature. The researchers believe that while one dinosaur sped up steadily and consistently as it ran, the other changed its speed quickly while it was still moving.
Pablo Navarro‐Lorbes, lead author and a researcher at the University of La Rioja in Logrono, said that paleontologists use various methods or ways to calculate the speed based on whatever limited evidence there is. While the primary method is “the speed estimation from tracks,” Pablo said, adding, another way to calculate the speed entails building biomechanical models based on dinosaur bones and limb proportions.
And while it’s nearly impossible to tell the genus of a theropod that left the footprints, the study reveals that the similarity between tracks indicates that the two dinosaurs belonged to the same taxonomic group. Shedding light on the type of theropod, the study claims that the creatures were “very agile” and may well have been non-avian — not one of the lineages directly related to modern birds.
“Fast-running theropod tracks are scarce in the fossil record,” Pablo said. “Being able to study them and confirm some other studies made from different approaches are great news for us.”