“The footprints are found in a layer of carbonate rocks (dolomitic limestone) from the Coimbra Formation, dating from the Sinemorian stage (Lower Jurassic). These footprints have been attributed to ornithischian dinosaurs and crocodylomorphs. These animals left their footprints on a vast coastal plain, which existed at that time, where the municipality of Alvaiázere is currently located”, says a statement from the Portuguese Center for Geo-History and Pre-History (CPGP) and the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar (IPT)
The discovery, published in the international journal Historical Biology, made it possible to identify a new species of dinosaur, called 'Moyenisauropus lusitanicus', by a multidisciplinary team of Portuguese researchers and made it possible to “expand knowledge about the diversity of dinosaurs and other vertebrates known in the Jurassic fossil record European and global inferior”.
Dating back around 195 million years, this record, according to the CPGP, is the oldest occurrence of dinosaurs in the Iberian Peninsula, after Sauropod footprints were found in Pedreira do Galinha (Natural Monument of Dinosaur Footprints in the Serra de Aire), around 170 million years old.
“The fossil record from the Lower Jurassic in the Iberian Peninsula is scarce, thus constituting this work as an important contribution to the knowledge about Lower Jurassic dinosaurs at an international level and to the paleogeographic and paleobiological reconstitution of the Sinemurian of Portugal”, says the CPGP.
The study was led by a Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar and President and researcher at the Portuguese Center for Geo-History and Pre-History, paleontologist Silvério Figueiredo, who is also an associate researcher at the Geosciences center at the University of Coimbra.
Researchers from the University of Coimbra also participated; from MARE - Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences; the NaturTejo Geopark; from the D. Luís Institute of FCUL; from Al-Baiaz - Association for the Defense of Heritage and CAA-Portugal.
In addition to the researchers, three young secondary students also participated in the fieldwork, as part of a summer internship organised by Ciência Viva in partnership with CPGP and included in the project.