A small footprint belonging to a baby dinosaur has been discovered in China, the MailOnline reported on Monday.
The imprint measures just 2.24 inches long and the exact species that made it is still unknown, but it is believed to be a diminutive stegosaur.
The most famous stegosaur is the Stegosaurus, a 21 foot-long, plant-eating giant known for its protruding backplates and mace-like tail.
“This footprint was made by a herbivorous, armored dinosaur known generally as a stegosaur – the family of dinosaurs that includes the famed stegosaurus,” said Dr Anthony Romilla, a co-author of the study from the University of Queensland.
“Like the stegosaurus, this little dinosaur probably had spikes on its tail and bony plates along its back as an adult.”
Researchers who discovered the footprint in the Lower Cretaceous Tugulu Group of Xinjiang Province, China, say the footprint was found close to much larger versions.
The international team of paleontologists say this is a sign that the dinosaur was likely surrounded by older, fully grown family members.
Writing in their scientific paper, published in the journal Palaios, the experts say the track was thought to be made by a dinosaur known as ichnogenus Deltapodus.
They added that the other footprints nearby are almost 6 times larger and the baby imprint is “the smallest convincing example of a Deltapodus currently known.”
Finding a stegosaur footprint smaller than around 5 inches is very rare, with the previous smallest ever discovered being 3.13 inches long.
The footprint has 3 short, wide, round toe impressions which researchers think is proof that it belongs to a stegosaur.
They also believe its shape reveals young stegosaurs had a different gait to the much heftier adults.
Adult tracks are elongated which means the giant dinosaurs walked with their heel on the ground, like humans.
But the baby stegosaur had its heel lifted, which is an indicator that it walked on its toes, like a cat or bird, with the bottom of its foot not touching the floor.
Dr Lida Xing, the paleontologist from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing who found the print, said “the stegosaur could have transitioned to heel-walking as it got older.”
“A complete set of tracks of these tiny footprints would provide us with the answer to this question, but unfortunately we only have a single footprint.”