Were Dinosaurs skilled Ballerinas and Sensitive Lovers?
Seeing as February is the Month of Love, we thought you’d enjoy this fascination blog! Massive footprints of dinosaurs have been found in Lesotho and Angie Shackelford of Sani Pass Private Tours fills us in on her experience on seeing them for herself.
Were Dinosaurs skilled Ballerinas and Sensitive Lovers?
It is almost impossible to imagine dinosaurs pirouetting along the sides of lakes. Can you see them bouncing on their toes whilst each being the size of 5 elephants? Steven Spielberg would never have thought of stuffing the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex into satin pointe toes as the beast roared through Jurassic Park. Although, contrary to his vicious flesh-tearing public image, T-Rex was believed to have been a sensitive lover. He possibly charmed his soul mate and could even have performed the earliest version of Swan Lake, playing Seigfried to her Odette.
However, our children’s favourite dinosaur Barney, shuffles from side to side on very firm flat feet. Perhaps he originated from a whimsical, musical family who had diminutive relatives called Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.
Dinosaurs did walk on their toes.
Expert opinion states that approximately 200 million years ago most dinosaurs did indeed walk on their toes. The reason why Theropods, which include most of the flesh-eating group, stormed around on their back toes was because this gave them a longer stride and more speed.
When my son was little, he asked me if prehistoric animals had roamed the earth when I was a child? Even though he considered me almost a fossil, my dignity was saved by the fact that there were definitely no people around 200 million years ago. However, the rare footprints have been left to tell stories of these enormous animals’ agility and speed.
The first time I saw some of these footprints the hair on my arms stood on end.
We had spent a long morning asking locals if they knew where we could find the site of a print from a large carnivorous dinosaur. This had been reported in the media. We eventually located a sunny lady who pointed up into the air, then re-adjusted and swung her arm towards the top of a small but steep mountain.
I was particularly keen to locate these prints as paleontologists in 2017 compared them to T-Rex specifying that they were made by a Theropod called Kayentapus
The article read:
“ Kayentapus ambrokholohali footprints were found on an informal road near the National University of Lesotho at Roma. These are the largest theropod trackways found in Africa and belong to an animal of about 26 feet long, dwarfing all the life around it.”
A real off-road experience.
The drive to the top was a real 4×4 rocky experience. Finally we jolted onto a plateau with a band of sandstone forming the road behind the mountain. The view was exquisite: a deep lush valley bordered by a panorama of mountain tops. We milled around for a while remarking on the view and lethargically pushing grass aside but there were no arrows, no signs nor visitors’ books and life ticked by in slow silence. Eventually a group of young women, carrying piles of thatching grass, walked past. They immediately pointed out the prints underneath our feet.
In a brief moment the dinosaur fascination came flooding back.
There were at least three or four different types of prints scattered in the rock layers and leading up towards the mountain top. These were a few large, three toed imprints with clear indication of the claws which are alleged to be from the Kayentapus. There were other with impressions of five toes and numerous smaller prints belonging to the nimble Lesothosaurus. There were more but it took a carefully trained eye to recognize them.
Was there a Dinosaur migration?
Finally, a grizzled man with no teeth appeared and told us a lyrical story of identical footprints on the edge of the mountain at least 2 km across the deep valley. This was directly opposite from where we were standing. He said that before the land split apart the very same dinosaurs all ran in panic towards some unknown destination and perhaps away from some unknown danger.
He knew this, as his grandfather had told him the story many years ago.
Whilst I would dearly have loved to have seen the twin prints there was no road or any other path visible to get to the rock plateau to which he pointed. In fact it was so far away we had to use binoculars to make out the identical formation to the jutting rock on which we were standing.
The old man had characteristically disappeared by the time we turned to squeeze more information from him.
Some 180 million years ago in the Jurassic Period the western half of Gondwana separated from the eastern half. The earth’s lithosphere must have screamed as it tore apart and earth and rocks must have cascaded in a fearsome storm as the tectonic plates split open. All life on earth, especially the creatures standing on the shuddering soil must have raced in terror towards safety. This could possibly be an explanation as to why so many prints of dinosaurs can be found, all running together, on one single stone plateau. Many of these creatures were natural enemies and would have to have been faced with extreme danger to merge into this stampede.
The weather conditions must have been absolutely perfect at that precise moment. It could not have been too muddy nor too dry in order to embed this frantic path which is still visible 200 million years later. This alone is remarkable.
The surrounding community go about their lives not realizing the value of the secrets embedded in their midst. Daily these prints are being scuffed and trodden by well-meaning folk. However, the prints are still at this point. easily seen when pointed out and deeply embedded into the layers of rock but are eroding fast.
A worthwhile experience.
It is worth the time and effort to see them with a guide before they no longer exist on this plateau. A guide is important as if you are not exactly sure of the location it will be very easy to just see potholes in the rocks and miss the drama altogether. Lesotho has a number of other remote dinosaur footprints embedded in rocks and ceilings of caves. Each have entrancing stories of their own.
I felt so small and insignificant in the face of such a display of nature.
I also felt nostalgic, standing on that very point so many millennia later. However, whilst I could almost hear the terror and confusion of that moment, I knew that unless something is done to preserve these amazing prints they are about to become just another memory in the mind of an old toothless man.