Giant Dinosaur Tracks Stump Paleontologists to Believe Sauropods Did Handstands

Dubbed "Thunder Lizard Handstands," the surprising tracks were discovered in Texas.
Fabienne Lang

Sauropods were the largest animals to ever walk on Earth. With massively long tails and necks, these behemoths needed four sturdy, well-proportioned legs to support them. Or did they? 

A 2007 discovery of these dinosaurs' tracks near Austin, Texas, showed only tracks of their two front legs, and none of their hind legs. Something of an anomaly for such large animals. Did these sauropods walk around the Earth merely on their two front legs? A rather bizarre and top-heavy image to conjure. 

The report was published in December in the journal Ichnos.


Dinosaurs doing handstands?

However strange it may seem to imagine such a large animal doing handstands, or walking on its two front legs, it isn't the first time such tracks have been discovered. These have at times been dismissed as one-off moments, however, given there were at least 60 impressions in the 2007 discovery, it was too tempting for researchers to pass up. 

Giant Dinosaur Tracks Stump Paleontologists to Believe Sauropods Did Handstands
Sauropod tracks at the Coffee Hollow A-Male trackways, Source: Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country

Researchers from the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Purdue University offer a compelling theory that sauropods may have been semi-aquatic. 

The team of researchers came to this potential conclusion because it's rather clear these dinosaurs didn't roam the Earth walking on their two front legs. Instead, the more plausible theory is that they used their two front legs to wade through a shoulder-height lake or river

As the tracks were a longer distance from each other than regular four-legged tracks, indicating a longer gait, this suggests the animals "punted" across the waters with their two front legs, pushing themselves across as their top bodies and hind legs floated. A slightly funny image of towering dinosaurs doggy-paddling comes to mind here. 

More findings need to be observed, though, before paleontologists can confirm all sauropods were semi-aquatic. For instance, it's possible these animals only used this type of behavior at specific times, to cross rivers and waterways — much like elephants who wade through water, and who aren't semi-aquatic. 

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