Stegosaurs are among the most recognizable dinosaurs because they left a lasting impression, including on a Scottish island.

Analysis of footprints show stegosaur roamed the Isle of Skye about 170 million years ago. it wasn't an isle then, it was a long-lost island in the Atlantic, and the site on the north-east coast was at the time a mudflat on the edge of a shallow lagoon. It contains a mixture of footprints, which means dinosaurs on Skye were more diverse than known. 

Large stegosaurs could grow to almost 30 feet long and weigh more than six tons but the short sequence of distinctive, oval footprints and handprints were made by a young animal or a small-bodied member of the stegosaur family as it ambled across the mudflat.

Graphical representation of dinosaurs on a prehistoric mudflat. Image: Jon Hoad

The discovery means that the site at Brothers' Point is now recognized as one of the oldest-known fossil records of this major dinosaur group found anywhere in the world. Skye is one of the few places in the world were fossils from the Middle Jurassic period can be found. Discoveries on the island have provided scientists with vital clues about the early evolution of major dinosaur groups, including huge, long-necked sauropods and fierce, meat-eating cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex. 

Paige dePolo, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said, "These new tracksites help us get a better sense of the variety of dinosaurs that lived near the coast of Skye during the Middle Jurassic than what we can glean from the island's body fossil record. In particular, Deltapodus tracks give good evidence that stegosaurs lived on Skye at this time."