Berlin, Oct 10 : A scientist from Germany has claimed to have uncovered tracks from the world's oldest dinosaur, though the footprints at the center of the find have sparked a major debate among scientists.
The find was made in a quarry near Bernburg, a small city in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt.
According to a report by Spiegel Online, weighing between 600 and 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds), the creature left impressive footprints in the limestone deposit. Shifting sand then covered the tracks.
The creature's rear foot measured a large 35 centimeters (14 inches).
All this happened around 243 million years ago, and it took until now for the fossilized tracks of this massive reptile to come to light again.
If the discoverer, paleontologist Cajus Diedrich, is to be believed, these limestone impressions will make for a research coup of global dimensions.
Diedrich believes he's found the world's oldest dinosaur, the ancestor of T. rex, Brontosaurus, Triceratops and all the others.
But, a number of experts in the field believe Diedrich's theory is fundamentally wrong and an all-out scientific brawl is brewing within the profession.
Diedrich speaks of the Prosauropods, dinosaur ancestors of the long-necked giants who later grazed the plains of the Jurassic period.
He sees his find as the evolutionary "missing link" between the slow reptiles of the Paleozoic era and the later, lithe dinosaurs.
But, the freelance paleontologist has attracted criticism with his theory.
It's "ridiculous," declares Hartmut Haubold, a paleontologist from Halle. "It's as if someone found a 10-million-year-old stone and claimed it was a hand axe made by humans," he said.
"Dinosaurs didn't come into existance until a good 15 million years later than Diedrich claims," he added.
Haubold believes the tracks in question, were most likely left by a Chirotherium, an ancestral reptile long known to scientists and possibly related to the dinosaurs' predecessors.
According to Martin Sander, a paleontologist at Germany's Bonn University, is also skeptical.
"The first dinosaurs were smaller creatures, about as big as monitor lizards. That a much larger dinosaur would have lived so much earlier is extremely improbable," he said.
"With only tracks to go on, it's very difficult to draw conclusions about a new dinosaur. There would have to be a skeleton," he added.