A trackway in Oxfordshire preserving dinosaur footprints, formed 165 million years ago, has been notified as the first site in Britain to be given special protection for its geological features alone
Natural England - UK’s environment body - has designated Ardley Trackways, housing fossilised footprints formed by a herd of Jurassic dinosaurs moving along part of an ancient shoreline, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The trackways include footprints of large, vegetarian dinosaurs related to Brachiosaurus and of carnivorous dinosaurs similar to Tyrannosaurus, according to an official release by the Natural England - the independent advisor on natural environment to the government.
Research conducted over the last decade has revealed important information about these dinosaurs and even shed light on the speed at which the creatures were travelling, the release said.
Now, the tracks need to be protected from exposure to the elements and damage from erosion as such extensive and relatively complete dinosaur footprints are very rare.
“Geological sites of this quality and importance are few and we are delighted to give this important window on our past the protection that it so clearly deserves,” said Dr. Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England.
“It is important that we continue to look after internationally valuable resources of this type and protect such fascinating insights into our ancient past,” she said.
As an SSSI, these unique footprints now join the ranks of England’s most important wildlife and geological conservation sites, Phillips pointed.
Natural England is pleased to be working closely with the site owners and operators to ensure that the trackways are carefully preserved and made accessible for scientific study, she added.
In total, there are 1,226 geological SSSIs in England.