Science

Sparrow-sized raptors left the smallest dinosaur footprints ever found

Sparrow-sized raptors left the...
A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
View 14 Images
The animal that left the tracks would have been the size of a sparrow
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The animal that left the tracks would have been the size of a sparrow
The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea
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The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea
The dinosaur tracks each measure just 1 cm (0.4 in) long
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The dinosaur tracks each measure just 1 cm (0.4 in) long
The tiny dinosaur tracks being removed for preservation
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The tiny dinosaur tracks being removed for preservation
A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
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A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
A diagram of the trackways
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A diagram of the trackways
The tiny dinosaur tracks on display
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The tiny dinosaur tracks on display
The animal that left the tracks would have been the size of a sparrow
8/14
The animal that left the tracks would have been the size of a sparrow
The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea
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The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea
The dinosaur tracks each measure just 1 cm (0.4 in) long
10/14
The dinosaur tracks each measure just 1 cm (0.4 in) long
The tiny dinosaur tracks being removed for preservation
11/14
The tiny dinosaur tracks being removed for preservation
A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
12/14
A recreation of Dromaeosauriformipes rarus, the tiny new raptor species that's thought to be responsible for the world's smallest dinosaur footprints
A diagram of the trackways
13/14
A diagram of the trackways
The tiny dinosaur tracks on display
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The tiny dinosaur tracks on display

Most of the records that dinosaurs break are in the "world's largest" category – the biggest foot, the largest land animal to ever walk the Earth, that kind of thing. But now palaeontologists have discovered the smallest dinosaur tracks ever found, which were made by a previously-unknown species of raptor the size of a sparrow.

Discovered in the Jinju Formation in South Korea, each of the footprints measures about 1 cm (0.4 in) long. Although they resemble modern bird tracks, they only have two toes, indicating they were made by raptors. That's because raptors, as you might remember from Jurassic Park, hold their clawed third toe off the ground in a curved position.

"These 110-million-year-old footprints and trackways were made by carnivorous dinosaurs commonly known as raptors," says Anthony Romilio, an author of the study. "The diminutive sizes of these new tracks are extraordinary; the tracks were made by tiny dinosaurs about the size of sparrows. They are the world's smallest dinosaur tracks."

The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea
The tiny new dinosaur tracks were found in the Jinju Formation in South Korea

To find the size of the animal responsible, the team estimated their hip height by multiplying the footprint length by 4.5. This sparrow-size didn't line up with any known species, so the track-maker has been given the new name Dromaeosauriformipes rarus. But there's an obvious question to ask – were these tiny adult animals or just baby dinosaurs of a larger species?

"Very small dinosaur species like the Chinese Microraptor were crow-sized, but these had feet too large to match the South Korean footprints," says Romilio. "If the tracks were made by dinosaur chicks, we are unclear as to the specific dinosaur that made them, since dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Utahraptor had larger feet than the ones discovered in these new tracks."

Dinosaur footprints can provide new insights into how ancient animals lived that fossilized bodily remains simply can't. New species emerge, migration patterns come to life, we can see which species lived side-by-side, and even how dinosaurs and early mammals co-existed.

The new study was published in the journal Scientific Reports, and the team brings the new species to life in the animation below.

Source: University of Queensland

Dromaeosauriformipes- The World's smallest dinosaur represented by tracks

3 comments
duane
Wow.. All that from tiny footprints.. Not a single bone.. Yet we've got a 3d rendering.. I think Spongebob said it best when he said "I-ma-gi-na-tion"..
jd_dunerider
I haven't heard of full size raptors having a pouch to carry their babies in. perhaps they walked and even left tracks? Seems like a lot of assumptions going on here.
Fairly Reasoner
Sometimes a bird is just a bird.