Earliest EVER footprints of amphibian found in Britain

Britain’s first amphibian: Earliest EVER footprints of a six-foot long crocodile-like beast that roamed Britain 340MILLION years ago found in Yorkshire

  • Sandstone fossil was found in North Yorkshire by a university student 
  • Analysis of the tracks in a 3D scanner revealed 340million-year-old footprints  
  • Tracks belong to the earliest relatives of modern amphibians – a  temnospondyl
  • The six-foot long animal was crocodile-like and walked across sandy river beds  

Britain’s oldest amphibian tracks have been discovered etched into a sandstone fossil in North Yorkshire. 

The ancient tracks date back 340 million years and were found at the base of Hardraw Force Waterfall in Wensleydale.

The tracks belong to the earliest relatives of modern amphibians, called temnospondyls, specifically the edopoids, or ‘glutton-faced animals’.

Edopoids were crocodile-like creatures which measured up to six feet (two metres) long and live don river deltas.    

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The ancient tracks date back 340 million years and were found at the base of Hardraw Force Waterfall in Wensleydale by researchers at the university of Birmingham. The trace fossil was out through a 3D scanner to reveal more detail and is now on display at the Natural History Museum

The trace fossil was put through a 3D scanner to reveal more detail and is now on display at the Natural History Museum.

Hannah Bird was an undergraduate student at the university of Birmingham when she conducted the research. 

Ms Bird said: ‘We used scanning and photography to make a 3D digital model, allowing us to better visualise and identify the footprints and invertebrate traces.

Edopoids are relatively large temnospondyls, with many species estimated to have grown several meters in length.

Edopoids translates to ‘glutton-faced animals.

Most edopoids are known from the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian of Europe and North America, which at the time formed a larger continent called Euramerica.

A tropical and subtropical climate across Euramerica during the Carboniferous and Early Permian period in which they lived meant edopoids could migrate between modern-day North America and Europe

‘Determining whether individual prints were made by hands or feet, as well as the direction of movement, certainly proved troublesome at times but we were finally able to reconstruct how this amphibian might have moved in life.’

Edopoids walked across the sandy beds of river deltas along with contemporary invertebrate animals including arthropods, worms and molluscs.

Scientists say the paper, published in the Journal of the Geological Society, presents a rare insight into the early Carboniferous period and tetrapod diversification in the UK, as well as how temnospondyls spread across Euramerica.

Scientific associate of the Natural History Museum, Angela Milner said: ‘Although this specimen has been in the Natural History Museum’s collection for a long time, modern 3D scanning techniques have revealed a wealth of detail that was almost impossible to see on the original tracks.’

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