Painstaking work uncovering this latest discovery in the summer of 2022
Painstaking work uncovering this latest discovery in the summer of 2022

Oldest dinosaur footprints on Iberian Peninsula discovered in Leiria district

Footprints date back 195 million years

Dinosaur footprints dating back 195 million years have been discovered in Alvaiázere, in the district of Leiria, and are the oldest on the Iberian Peninsula, according to a scientific study published yesterday.

“The footprints are found in a layer of carbonate rocks (dolomitic limestones) from the Coimbra Formation, dating from the Sinemorian (Lower Jurassic) stage. These footprints have been attributed to ornithischian dinosaurs and crocodilomorphs. These animals left their footprints on a vast coastal plain that existed at that time, where the county of Alvaiázere is now located,” says a statement from the Portuguese Centre 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 fossil record of the Lower Jurassic in Europe and worldwide”.

At around 195 million years old, this record, according to the CPGP, is the oldest occurrence of dinosaurs on the Iberian Peninsula, after Sauropod footprints were found in Pedreira do Galinha (Serra de Aire Dinosaur Footprints Natural Monument), which are around 170 million years old.

“The fossil record of the Lower Jurassic in the Iberian Peninsula is scarce, so this work constitutes an important contribution to knowledge about the dinosaurs of the Lower Jurassic at an international level and to the palaeogeographical and palaeobiological reconstruction of the Sinemurian of Portugal,” said the CPGP.

The study was led by Silvério Figueiredo, professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar and president and researcher at the Portuguese Centre for Geo-History and Prehistory, who is also an associate researcher at the Geosciences Centre of the University of Coimbra.

Also taking part were researchers from the University of Coimbra; MARE – Centre for Marine and Environmental Sciences; NaturTejo Geopark; the D. Luís Institute of FCUL; Al-Baiaz – Heritage Defence Association and CAA-Portugal.

In addition to the researchers, three young secondary school pupils also took part in the fieldwork, as part of a summer internship organised by Ciência Viva in partnership with the CPGP and included in the project.