Paleontologists have discovered the footprints of two sauropod dinosaurs dating back around 100 million years in the outdoor courtyard of a restaurant in southwest China.
Herbivorous sauropods, marked by their long necks and long tails and reaching enormous size – the length of three school buses – lived in the early Cretaceous period and are the largest land animals to ever roam the planet.
At the restaurant in China’s Sichuan province, researchers reportedly found stone pits containing footprints of two sauropods after a restaurant spotted “special bumps” in the spot.
Scientists confirmed the yet-to-be-peer-reviewed findings Saturday using a 3D scanner, USA Today reported.
The researchers say the two sauropods were probably around 8m (26ft) in body length and lived during a time when “dinosaurs really thrived” in the area.
While paleontologists have previously unearthed fossils in Sichuan province, they say the newly discovered footprints add more pieces to the puzzle of how dinosaurs lived during the Cretaceous period in the region.
It is also not the first time that sauropod species have been discovered in China.
Last year, scientists reported the discovery of two sauropods discovered in the northwest regions of China, in Xinjiang and the Turpan-Hami Basin.
The two species of giant dinosaurs, described in a study in the journal Scientific reports in August, were appointed Silutitan sinensis – “silu” meaning “silk road” in Mandarin – and Hamititan xinjiangensis, a nod to the region where it was found.
According to the researchers, these species were probably more than 17 to 20 meters long, compared to modern blue whales which reach lengths of 23 to 30 meters.
Giant dinosaur fossils have been found in places where they weren’t thought to be common, increasing the diversity of sauropods in Asia, scientists have said.
“These dinosaurs are the first vertebrates reported from this region, increasing faunal diversity as well as information about Chinese sauropods,” the scientists wrote in the study.