When dinosaurs roamed the Jura

Footprint of a dinosaur

I read in the local news paper that not far from Arbois, a little place in the Jura vineyard some of you might know, someone discovered Dinosaur Foot Prints.

The lucky discoverer is a local person, Jean François Richard. One rainy day he was jogging passed a quarry and identified puddles as dinosaur foot prints. He already knew about other foot prints in the Jura at Coisia and Courtedoux (Swiss) and with his geological background could identify other features in the quarry like ripples and mud cracks. Since, the University of Lyon 1 started to study this exceptional place that displays more than 1000 prints ranging from 20 to 90 cm in diameter.

The rock formation dates back to 155 Ma in Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian), when the area was covered with shallow seas scattered with small coral reefs islands. Sometimes the sea level temporarily dropped, and large littoral mud plains developed and joined the large islands of the ancient eroded massifs of the Ardennes, Massif Central and Rhineland. Just imagine these Herds of Sauropods migrating in search of food, crossing this endless flat muddy landscape. Indeed our animals have been identified as belonging to the Sauropod group that counts also among its members the Diplodocus.

According to the article in “Le Progrès 17/06/07”, a two-week field work, lead by a team of the University Lyon 1, took place this summer. As a consequence, when you now go for a stroll in the quarry, you will see all these bright colors that mark each track of foot prints. This enabled the team to get pictures of the whole site, shot from the air by a drone. The team made also an other very important discovery: on a horizon 50 cm above the one that bears the prints, there are even more foot prints. This indicates that on that same spot there has been several Sauropod crossings during several hundreds of thousand of years. The scientists dealing with this site reckon that the size and the paleontological richness make it rather unique in France even Europe; the study of the site is just at the beginning and will last at least three years.

The quarry is still accessible to public and a sign gives some explanations about the place. For the really interested in dinos, there is an exhibition called Paléomania installed this summer at Chevenez in the Swiss Jura and will move to Arinthod summer 2008. It tells the story of all the paleological discoveries made in the Jura Massif. In conclusion let’s say, that one should never be put off by rain to go for a jog, one might find a dinosaur foot print.

Elisabeth d'Eyrames

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