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Carnivorous dinosaurs strolled German beach 142 mln yrs ago

Press Trust of India  |  Berlin 

Two carnivorous dinosaurs strolled along the beach in what is now Germany some 142 million years ago, according to a new study of their fossilised footprints which provide insight into the hunters' daily life.

One of the dinosaurs was large, the other was small. They were in no hurry, they almost strolled along, leaving their footprints in the wet sand, researchers said.

From time to time they skidded because it's hard to stand firm in the wet sand, but they kept their course and continued straight ahead, they said.

A few times the small one had to trot in order to catch up with the big one, said biologist Pernille Veno Troelsen from University of Southern Denmark.

Their average speed was 6.3 km/h for the big one and 9.7 km/hour for the little one. It was notably slow for a carnivorous dinosaur that can run with more than 40 km/hour.

The footprints investigated were excavated in the period 2009-11 in Buckeberg Formation in Munchehagen in Germany.

Based on analysis of the footsteps Troelsen concluded that the two animals measured respectively 1.6 meters and 1.1 meters at hip height, and that they were probably carnivorous dinosaurs of the species Megalosauripus.

The little one had occasionally crossed its legs on its way, and according to Troelsen there can be a number of reasons for this: Perhaps it lost its balance because it was slippery or the wind was strong, perhaps it found something to eat, or maybe it wanted to stick close to the big one.

"If so, this may illustrate two social animals, perhaps a parent and a young," said Troelsen.

A growing number of findings point to the fact that several dinosaur species were social animals and maybe hunted together and took care of their offspring after they were hatched.

However, it cannot be determined whether the tracks from the small one and the big one were created at the same time.

These carnivorous dinosaurs were agile hunters who walked and ran on two legs. They were of approximately same size as the velicoraptor, known by many from the film Jurassic Park.

Dinosaur footprints have been found in several European countries. Especially England, Northern Germany and Spain host hundreds of footprints from carnivorous dinosaurs, aged 140-145 million years old - all from the same geological period as the footprints, Troelsen added.

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First Published: Tue, August 11 2015. 16:02 IST