Yang Zherui was able to immediately determine that the "chicken footprint" locals had seen actually belonged to theropods, a three-toed, bird-like dinosaur.
Five-year-old children usually run around playing and try and get a grasp on the alphabet at their age. While most of us don't have a lot to brag about from when we were toddlers, a five-year-old from China has managed to discover a dinosaur footprint while he was on vacation. This is a feat most of us definitely do not have to our names. Perhaps it was Yang Zherui's interest in dinosaurs, his childlike curiosity, and a keen sense of observation that led to this momentous discovery. But Zherui has already made history as the youngest person to have discovered a dinosaur footprint, in the five years he has spent on Earth.
Chinese paleontologists announced the discovery of #dinosaur footprints in #Sichuan Province, which were first found by a five-year-old boy named Yang Zherui. #Kindergarten #boy #Discovery #ChinaBuzz pic.twitter.com/hzpEinSI2q— China Takeaway (@China24Official) October 13, 2020
Zherui was on a family vacation to visit his grandfather who lives in the county of Bazhong. The Daily Mail reported that the little boy had asked his parents to take him to south-western China's Sichuan region after hearing about the previously unidentified prints that were spotted there. As a dino enthusiast, Zherui was quick to note that the footprint could have possibly belonged to a type of bird-like dinosaurs that he had learned about. He was even able to explain why he thought so in detail. Intrigued by the boy's passionate explanation, his parents got in touch with Xing Lida, a dinosaur specialist and deputy professor at the China University of Geosciences.
Zherui claimed that the mysterious markings could be the fossilized imprints of dinosaurs' feet. These claims were indeed backed by the scientist who went on to explain that the footmarks were left by theropods, a type of bird-like dinosaurs that were three-toed and had hollow limbs. In fact, present-day birds have been found to be the direct descendants of theropods. Birds have evolved from a group of meat-eating theropods, which also happened to be the same group that Tyrannosaurus Rex belonged to, according to Natural History Museum. However, birds have evolved from small theropods and not huge ones like the T-Rex.
Today I’ve been writing about one of the coolest groups of theropod dinosaurs, the penguins.🐧🦖— Dr Dean Lomax (@Dean_R_Lomax) January 26, 2021
This is the foot of a giant penguin called Anthropornis grandis. It is roughly 36–38 million years old & was collected from Seymour Island, Antarctica.
Remember, #BirdsAreDinosaurs pic.twitter.com/d4s1In36LL
Xing also said that the footmark could possibly be from 130 million years ago, dating back to the Cretaceous Period. According to Live Science, "The Cretaceous Period was the last and longest segment of the Mesozoic Era. It lasted approximately 79 million years, from the minor extinction event that closed the Jurassic Period about 145.5 million years ago to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event dated at 65.5 million years ago." The continents as we know them today did not exist at the beginning of this period. The footmarks that Zherui managed to recognize were from that period. He also loved science and had already started attending classes about dinosaurs, which helped the cause.
The locals had seen these "chicken feet" prints for a long time. But no one before Zherui had made the connection that this could have potentially belonged to a dinosaur and neither did they know of the significance. The family made the trek to the rock slab that was located in the wild and carried with them tools to make the trip easy as well. The boy's mother took pictures of the imprints on the rock and reached out to the paleontologist through the Chinese social media, Weibo. Xing said he and his team would carry on studying the tracks and arrange an exhibition for them in the future.