A wee baby stegosaur footprint believed to prance around 100 million years ago was recently discovered in China.

Live Science reported that this adorable, cat-size tot's footprint from the Cretaceous period was found in a territory in northwest China called Xinjiang.

The authors reported in their study that at just 2.21-inches long, this is said to be the tiniest stegosaur print ever discovered.

The same report specified that the area where the tiny prints had been discovered were also "pock-marked with large footprints" from stegosaurs, a group of herbivorous dinosaurs including the genus Stegosaurus that averaged approximately 11 inches long at the back foot and roughly 5.3 inches long at the front foot.

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Science Times - Wee Baby Stegosaur Footprint from 100 Million Years Ago Discovered in China
(Photo: Adam Harangozó on Wikimedia Commons)
Dinosaur footprints

Small Back Footprint

There was just a single small back footprint that had the stegosaurs' unique three-toed shape. It is unclear though which species the footprint belonged to, although a species' skeletal remains identified as Wuerhosaurus homheni have been discovered in the site.

This species has been known only from what's described as 'fragmentary bones,' although from those researchers know it displayed the iconic back plates the stegosaurs are well-known for.

In a statement released by the University of Queensland, Anthony Romilio, co-author of the study and a researcher in the Dinosaur Lab at the university said that like the Stegosaurus, this tiny dinosaur probably had spikes on its tail. And as an adult, it probably had bony plates along its back.

Perhaps, the co-author added, small stegosaur footprints have been discovered in the past, although whether they really belonged to stegosaur babies, remains controversial.

Disagreement from Other Paleontologists

Small tracks have been discovered near Morrison Colorado, in rocks from 199 million to 145 million years ago, during the Jurassic period.

However, not all paleontologists agree that these footprints are considered fossils. Marin Lockley, one of the co-authors of a new paper entitled "Stegosaur Track Assemblage From Xinjiang, China, Featuring The Smallest Known Stegosaur Record," published in Palaois argued that the said prints are actually merely chunks of irregularly shaped mud entrenched in sandstone. Lockley is a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Different from the larger tracks at the Xinjiang site, the small track was described to be not elongated. As indicated in the report, this intrigued researchers as it has suggested the baby stegosaur may have moved akin to its adult counterparts.

Stegosaurs Creating Long Footprints

Typically, explained Romilio, Stegosaurs walked with their heels on the ground, just so much like humans do, although on all fours creating long footprints.

The small tracks, he continued explaining, presents that this dinosaur species had been moving with its heel lifting off the ground, much akin to what a cat or a bird is doing today. He added, they've only just seen in the past shortened tracks like this when dinosaurs were walking on a pair of legs.

Probably, according to study co-author, paleontologist Lida Xing, from Beijing-based China University of Geoscience, the baby stegosaurs were walking on their hind feet, transitioning to four feet as they grew bigger.

A complete set of tracks of these small footprints, Xing elaborated, would provide the researchers with an answer to the question, although unfortunately, they only have just one footprint.

Related information about stegosaurs is shown on PBS Eon's YouTube video below:

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