Sometimes you go for a walk and you find stuff. A lost ball. A cool bird feather. An old soft drink bottle from decades ago.
Or, if you're Lily Wilder, you find... a 220-million-year-old dinosaur footprint!
She and her family were out for a walk along Bendricks Bay in southern Wales, UK. It was just your average winter walk on a rocky beach by the sea. Until Lily found something interesting and said, "Daddy, look at this!"
Great eye, Lily!
An excellent specimen
As it turns out, though, fossils aren't that unusual in this particular area. This beach along Bendricks Bay is well known for having excellent fossils from the Triassic Period. But still, Lily's specimen is one of the best ever found in the area. And what exactly made the footprint? That is still up for debate.
The Triassic was the time that marked the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs, and then was followed by the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. These last two periods contained the dinosaurs we're most familiar with, from huge long-necked sauropods and horned ceratopsians to giant theropods and stout ankylosaurs.
The Triassic, however, was home to both proto-sauropods (early species) such as Platesaurus and Riojasaurus), and small, darting predators like Coelophysis and Lilienstrenus. Lily's print probably came from one of these second types of dinos, though it could have been made by an ancient reptile that was an ancestor of modern crocodiles. These animals were not dinosaurs, but lived at the same time.
In her name
Either way, the fossil is small—the footprint is the about the same size as Lily's four-year-old hand. Cute! And when it is finally displayed for the public at National Museum Cardiff (a city in Wales), Lily will be noted as its discoverer.
In other words, this young girl's paleontological career is already off to a great start. Will she continue to search for treasures from the past? According to a recent interview with CBC, her answer?
Good luck, Lily!