Abstract

A fundamental question remaining unanswered in dinosaur behavior is whether they had the ability to swim. We report the discovery of an exceptional swimming dinosaur trackway, with 12 consecutive footprints, in lacustrine nearshore sediment from the Early Cretaceous Cameros Basin, La Rioja, Spain. The singular morphology of these footprints strongly suggests a floating animal clawing the sediment as it swam. Diagnostic traits of theropod dinosaur footprints are identifiable in these peculiar elongated S-shaped ichnites. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction indicates an upper shoreface setting with a maximum water depth of ∼3 m, substantiating the swimming hypothesis. Ichnological analysis of the trackway shows that this theropod used a pelvic paddle motion, similar to that of modern bipeds, and swam with amplified asymmetrical walking movements to maintain direction into a leftward water current. After recent hints of swimming dinosaurs, this new evidence persuasively demonstrates that some non-avian theropod dinosaurs were swimmers.

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