SUCRE, Bolivia — There’s a good chance that if flesh-eating dinosaurs were still around today, we wouldn’t just have to worry about their sharp teeth.
Scientists recently uncovered a record-setting footprint in Bolivia. It is the biggest print from a carnivorous dinosaur to be discovered worldwide.
Until now, the largest track from a meat-eating dinosaur measured at 110 centimeters and was discovered in New Mexico, according to paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia.
Grover Marquina, a tour guide, was trekking through the Maragua Crater about 40 miles from the capital Sucre when he stumbled upon the fossilized footprint on July 19. The indentation exceeds 115 centimeters — nearly 4 feet wide — Apesteguia said.
Normally, these types of prints are between 85 to 100 centimeters, he said.
Apesteguia, a scientist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, explained that the likely owner of the footprint belonged to a large dinosaur species, possibly a creature that was a part of the Abelisaurus genus.
Predatory creatures in the Abelisaurus family were two-legged beasts that lived about 70 million years ago. With a powerful jaw, 40-foot stature and stunted arms, the features of these animals rival the better known and infamous Tyrannosaurus rex, or maybe even an oversized raptor called a Megaraptor — a fierce creature that has been identified in the Patagonia region before.
Not only does the print set a new record for its size, it also challenges a former belief about the prehistoric creatures that existed in the South America during the Cretaceous period, which is known as the last portion of the “Age of Dinosaurs.”
The discovery of this footprint means that gigantic dinosaurs did live through the latter part of the period, something that has been ignored up until now, Apesteguia said.
Larger dinosaurs were believed to have existed on the continent 100 million years ago, not 70 million years ago, Apesteguia said. For context, scientists believe the apocalyptic asteroid that set in motion the death of the dinosaurs struck Earth about 66 million years ago.
Finding similar dinosaur prints in the region is fairly common, Apesteguia said. Fossilized footprints dating back to the early Cretaceous period have been unearthed across Bolivia, and smaller ones have been spotted in Chile, Brazil and Argentina as well.
In fact, scientists in January came across a footprint from the same carnivorous species that stretched 104 centimeters.
But the latest finding is still impressive because it’s helping scientists further understand the landscape of our planet and the creatures who lived on it millions of years ago.