Using a 3D scanner, the scientists determined that the tracks were from sauropods – large herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and four legs. Those footprints were likely left by the species, according to Lida Xing, a paleontologist at China University of Geosciences who led the team examining the site Titanosauriformes.
Discoveries shed new light on the day the dinosaurs died
The footprints average about 22 inches long, and the dinosaurs were likely about 26 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds, Xing told the Washington Post.
While not a common occurrence, dinosaur footprints are occasionally discovered in China — just not in urban settings.
“Sauropod tracks are not uncommon in the Sichuan Basin… but they are very rare[ly] found in downtown restaurants,” Xing said in an email. “Most of the time, the soil of the city is either vegetation or cement.”
But this wasn’t the first accidental discovery of dinosaur remains in recent years.
Take, for example, the case of Mark McMenamin, who walked the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst last year. He and his wife collected rocks at a construction site and later found that one of them appeared to be a fossil.
In fact, it was the elbow bone of a 30-foot-long predatory dinosaur known as a neotheropod. McMenamin, a professor of geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, estimated the Jurassic fossil’s age at 145 to 200 million years, Newsweek reported.
Then there was the discovery of a well-preserved dinosaur “corpse” unearthed by miners in Canada. During excavations at Alberta’s Suncor Millennium Mine in 2011, they uncovered the fossilized remains of a Nodosaurus, a heavily armored creature some 110 million years old, according to National Geographic.
First exhibited in 2017, it is believed to be one of the best preserved dinosaur fossils ever found. The remains are so complete that scientists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta have been able to examine the contents of his stomach, including twigs, leaves, moss, pollen and spores.
Last year, archaeologist Marie Woods was searching for shells on a beach in Yorkshire, England, when she discovered something unusual: the 165-million-year-old footprint of a species of theropod. A dinosaur similar to a Tyrannosaurus rexThis ancient reptile also stood on two legs and was a carnivore. It was the largest footprint of its kind ever found in this part of England, the Good News Network reported.
“All I wanted to do was get some shellfish for my dinner and I ended up stumbling upon it,” Woods told the website.
In 2011, paleontologists in China came across a large rock with a fish fossil on the surface. They hauled it back to the lab, where it sat for about a year, according to New Scientist. Then the researchers decided to break it open.
To their amazement, they discovered inside the remains of a mother ichthyosaur — a fish-like creature that swam the oceans during the Mesozoic Era, 252 million to 66 million years ago — who gave birth to three babies. One was already out of the womb, another was halfway out, and the third was waiting for his chance.
This fossil find changed the view of when dinosaurs began having live births, pushing the historical record back almost 250 million years. Ichthyosaurs, which evolved from land-based creatures, proved that dinosaurs had abandoned egg-laying much earlier than previously thought.
“This land style of birth is only possible if they inherited it from their land ancestors,” one of the researchers told Live Science. “You wouldn’t do it if live births were developing in the water.”
Back at the restaurant in Sichuan Province, Xing and her team continue to investigate the accidental discovery of dinosaur tracks. The area where the sauropod footprints were discovered has been cordoned off to prevent inquisitive guests from accidentally injuring them.
At first, the restaurant owner feared that the news of the original find would affect her business with home-style dishes from the local kitchen. Since then, however, she has embraced the media hype.
“She was initially concerned that she would attract many curious people and affect the restaurant’s traditional customers,” Xing wrote. “But now she understands the change and is ready to release some dinosaur-tracked treats.”