A fossil housed for half a century in a Polish museum has turned out to be the first dinosaur skeleton preserved in its own tracks, say scientists.
A recent examination of the 80-million-year-old specimen revealed a single footprint preserved in the rocks encasing the fossilised bones.
Polish and Mongolian fossil hunters first unearthed it in 1965 in Mongolia.
Scientists now report the results of its re-examination in the journal Cretaceous Research.
The dinosaur is a Protoceratops, and since this is one of the most common dinosaurs found in the rich fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, it was not deemed to be very significant. But the scientists say it is the first example of a dinosaur being preserved with its own footprints.
Polish palaeontologists Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki and Tomasz Singer spotted the footprint while they were preparing the fossil for display at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
His colleague, University of Colorado at Denver geologist Martin Lockley, told BBC Nature that this really was “a first”.
“Generally, we find it very hard even to match dinosaurs with their footprints at the species level,” he explained. …