A large, long-necked dinosaur along with a raccoon-size mammal and a crocodile like creature were supposedly heading towards a freshwater lake during the Early Cretaceousperiod 118 million years ago, thus leaving their footprints behind in a sedimentary band of earth. The ancient track marks were discovered at Angola’s Catoca diamond mine, the fourth-largest diamond mine in the world.
The mammalian tracks are a particularly rare find, as most warm-blooded animals at that time were no larger than rats, and this one appears to be larger, researchers said. Nearly 70 distinct tracks were recovered in the Catoca mine in Angola. All the tracks were found in a small sedimentary basin, formed about 118 Ma, during the Early Cretaceous, in the crater of a kimberlite pipe.
The mammal has five distinctive digits, with a long middle digit and a thumb that goes off to the side. The prints, which are 1 inch by 3.7 inches, on average, suggest that the animal was about the size of a modern-day raccoon.
Paleontologist Marco Marzola, a member of the PaleoAngola Project, says that most mammals didn’t begin to evolve to larger sizes until after the primacy of the dinosaurs came to an end. Until then, the majority of mammals were comparable in size to mice or squirrels at their largest, Marzola added.
The animal tracks were first discovered in 2010, when a total of 69 distinct tracks were unearthed, with an additional 18 sauropod tracks also uncovered – one of which had skin impressions still embedded in the fossilized stone. Both the owners of the diamond mine and PaleoAngola stepped in to help preserve the discovery. This is especially worth mentioning because the mining company dismissed the prospect of gaining additional income from excavating in the mine in order to preserve the scientific discovery.
These dinosaur tracks are likely from a sauropod, scientists say. Sauropods had long necks and were the largest terrestrial animals ever alive on Earth, according to the fossil record. Researchers stated that the tracks represent the first evidence of vertebrate animals from the Cretaceous inhabiting inland Angola. Ripple marks in the stone nearby the fossilized tracks led scientists to posit that the region was once a shallow lake that no longer exists nowadays.