A team of Chinese paleontologists has identified more than 240 fossilized dinosaur footprints in East China's Fujian province, the first traces of dinosaur activity found in the province.
The site of the dinosaur tracks in Shanghang county, covering an area of about 1,600 square meters, is the largest and the most diverse such site dating back to the Upper Cretaceous period discovered in China, according to scientists.
The 80-million-year-old tracks in Shanghang county were left by at least eight types of dinosaurs, including sauropods, large and small theropods and ornithopods, scientists told a recent news conference held in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province.
"Judging from the size of the footprints, which were 8 to 55 centimeters long, the lengths of the dinosaurs range from 1 meter to 10 meters," says Xing Lida, a member of the research team and associate professor at the China University of Geosciences.
The footprints include three-toed imprints left by carnivorous theropods, which stood out with sharp claw marks, sauropod footprints that resemble large round pits and other three-toed marks "that look like clover leaves" left by hadrosaurs, according to the researcher.
The finding is of particular significance given the scarcity of Upper Cretaceous dinosaur footprints in China, he adds.
The site also revealed footprints that were left by large bird-like deinonychosauria, the first such finding of the Upper Cretaceous dinosaur nationwide, according to Xing.
Geological analysis of the site, which was well preserved when discovered, suggests the dinosaurs had been eating and drinking along a lake, the scientists said.
"More dinosaur fossils, including footprints, bones or eggs, could be discovered in the province in the future," says Peng Guangzhao, a veteran paleontologist and former curator of Zigong Dinosaur Museum, who helped identify the discovery.
Local officials say the site is under strict protection and surveillance while authorities carry out long-term plans to preserve the fossils and any future discoveries.