New research has shown that 183 million years ago, dinosaurs walked around and lived in the Karoo region of South Africa. At this time during the Jurassic period, the area was covered by hot lava flows.
This “land of fire” would be considered inhospitable to most, but these “fire walkers” called the area home between periods of volcanic eruptions.
This discovery was made by Emese Bordy, an associate professor of sedimentology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) who stumbled across a picture of a dinosaur footprint in an unpublished Master’s thesis from 1964.
According to Live Science, Bordy tracked down the farm where the footprint was photographed, and investigated five fossils trackways that were left by at least three different animals that walked across the fiery landscape.
“For short time periods, the streams were flowing again, the sun was shining, the plants were growing and the animals, among them dinosaurs, were grazing and hunting,” said Bordy, who led the research published in the journal PLOS ONE. “This is attested by the vertebrate footprints of both meat- and plant-eating dinosaurs, plant remains, sediment deposits of streams and lakes, to name just a few.”
The researchers were able to identify the kinds of dinosaurs from their footprints by measuring the their size and the length of the space between the prints, then comparing them with relevant numbers in the science literature.
They found some belonged to a large carnivorous dinosaur and others belonged to a small herbivore.
Despite being called “fire-walkers” by the team, these dinosaurs didn’t walk directly on the lava flows.
“The properties of the sandstone allow us to tell that the tracks were deposited in seasonal streams that run during flash flood events,” added Bordy. “Hot was hot back then, too. So no, they did not walk on the lava.”
“This story helps us change the way we see life in stressful and hostile environments, and thus improves our understanding of the history of life on Earth,” Bordy said.
Image: Emese M. Bordy, et al. 2020