Dinos’ old stomping ground

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Caravans weren’t the first “trains” to trek across the Arabian Peninsula. Scientists recently discovered evidence that dinosaurs did, too.

Following up on a journalist’s tip, researchers in the US, the Netherlands, and Yemen have analyzed the first major dinosaur trackways found on the peninsula. The tracks themselves were left by several different species of dinosaur, the research team reports.

The multiple trackways, located outside the Yemeni village of Madar, about 29 miles north of the country’s capital, could help play a critical role in reconstructing the history of dinosaurs in the Middle East, if for no other reason than fossil remains are scarce, the team explains.

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Back in the day, of course, the climate and the peninsula’s location were different from what they are now. Sometime between 176 million to 99 million years ago, the area the dinosaurs trod was a coastal mud flat.

The tracks were left by four-legged, long-necked sauropods as well as by so-called bird-hipped dinosaurs, or ornithopods, which walked on two legs. Based on 11 well-preserved sets of tracks, the team estimates that the sauropods were relatively small and ambled along at a leisurely 2 miles an hour.

The team, whose results appear this week in the online journal Public Library of Science One, note that the area where the tracks appear hosts similar types of rock outcroppings, suggesting that the area holds the potential for more discoveries

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