the field, the only really good place to see dinosaur footprints is
Hanover Point, on the southwest
coast. The best time to see the footprints is after a storm, as the
ones that have been buried will be uncovered, and more will be washed
out, although if there has been a collapse of the cliff then they
may be obscured.
As I've said
before, the National Trust protects these footprints, so please
leave them where you find them. Teachers often use these footprints
for field demonstrations, and everybody uses Hanover
Point, from Prehistoric Island
to the University
understand all the terminology? visit the Glossary)
three main types of footprints known on the Isle of Wight, the Large
from the Wessex Formation and
the base of the Vectis, slightly
smaller "Theropod" footprints from thin limestone beds
in the Vectis Formation, and four-toed
from the Wessex Formation. There
are also some reported "Iguanodon"
manus prints and sauropod tracks. Of all of these, the "Iguanodon"
tracks are the easiest to find, due to their unusual shape.
of the Wessex Formation are generally
trifid (three pronged) boulders, about 50 cm long with an
average angle of 42° between digits II and IV, preserved in
sandstone overlying a mudstone substrate. There are also imprints,
in a reddish-orange mudstone bed on the foreshore at Hanover
Point. These were buried under the overlying mudstone beds,
which have since been eroded away. There were also several trackways
at Chilton Chine, but dinotrackers
beware, they've eroded away since the 1970's, and there is nothing
In the Vectis
Formation, there are many sandstone-preserved footcasts, of
both "ornithopod/theropod" and "sauropod" dinosaurs,
in the White Rock Sandstone, but there are also footprints preserved
in shelly limestone beds, the footprints being infilled with unionid
bivalves (Radley et al., 1998). The preservation of the unionids
would suggest that the tracks were made in the substrate, then the
bivalves settled on the surface (Radley et al., 1998). Many
of these footcasts, attributed to theropods, have what appears to
be a claw impression at the tips of the digits (Radley et al.,
1998); whether these are actual claw marks or artefacts of the substrate
after the foot was removed is unknown.
of the problems with dinosaur footprints is that there is
no way of knowing exactly what dinosaur made which footprint.
So when a footprint is described as being Iguanodon
or Tetrapodosaurus, that name is not the name of a
dinosaur (The ichnotaxa Iguanodon is based on association
of fauna and footprints, and is generally considered to be
made by Iguanodon, although
some scientists want the name changed, and there is no dinosaur
called Tetrapodosaurus), but the name of the footprint
shape. For example, there is an ichnotaxon called Tyrannosauripus,
which to the uninitiated would seem to suggest that it was
made by Tyrannosaurus. However, it isn't certain that
it did. It is possible that Tyrannosaurus may have
made Tyrannosauripus tracks, but not all Tyrannosauripus
tracks are made by Tyrannosaurus.