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October 8, 2009

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Giant dinosaur footprints found

PALEONTOLOGISTS in eastern France have reported the discovery of some of the largest dinosaur footprints ever documented, measuring about 1.4 meters to 1.5 meters in diameter.

The site of the find, high in the Jura mountains, was once a literal sauropod stomping ground. So far, 20 prints scattered on a 10-hectare site have been uncovered, paleontologist Jean-Michel Mazin of France's National Center of Scientific Research said yesterday.

Researchers believe there are hundreds, or even thousands, more still hidden, Mazin said.

The well-preserved footprints from the late Jurassic period will help scientists learn more about sauropods -- long-necked plant eaters that were giants among the dinosaurs.

The hulking beasts who left their footprints in the mud 150 million years ago weighed 30 to 40 metric tons and were more than 25 meters long, the French research center said.

From the prints, "we can calculate their size and speed, find out about their behavior and learn how they got around," said Mazin, who is studying the site along with fellow researcher Pierre Hantzpergue. Their discovery was announced on Tuesday.

Several scientists who are not linked with the project said the prints seemed to be among the biggest ever found globally, though they noted that slightly larger tracks have been recorded elsewhere.

Two eagle-eyed nature lovers discovered the site on a path through a mountain prairie and reported it to scientists.


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