Scarborough Strata #2

HH014For the second ever piece in this series I want to take a quick look at one of the most iconic group of fossils found on the Yorkshire Coast; dinosaur footprints. During the Middle Jurassic period, around 165 million years ago, Scarborough was a very different place. Firstly we were located much further South on the globe, around where North Africa is today. Large rivers flowed across the region, from the North towards the South and East. These rivers were big, the size of the Mississippi, and they moved huge amounts of sediment, forming the very distinctive sandstones we see today at places like Burniston and Cloughton (it is also the same sandstone used for the building stones of those same villages and many other locations).

The banks of these rivers were covered in lush vegetation including plants such as cycads, horsetails and tree ferns that we still recognise today, but no flowering plants or grass, it will be many millions of years before they arrive on the scene. The vegetation attracted the predominant animals of the age, the dinosaurs, which in turn left behind their footprints. Today we recognise nearly thirty different prints representing all the main types of dinosaurs, including both herbivores and carnivores. These footprints can still be seen on the coast and in collections at places like Whitby Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and of course the Rotunda in Scarborough.

Much of the research on these prints was done by Prof Mike Romano and Dr Martin Whyte based at Sheffield University. Sadly, Dr Whyte passed away in 2013 and it is very fitting that the Yorkshire Geological Society are holding a public meeting in his honor later this year, right here in Scarborough.

First produced in Issue 19 of the Scarborough Review.

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