Cabo Espichel Dinosaur Tracks and Footprints
Some of the best preserved dinosaur footprints of Portugal are located on the headland of Cabo Espichel, which lies on the south western tip of the Setubal Peninsular. Cabo Espichel is a wild and barren landscape of massive cliffs and raging seas and is part of the Arrábida National Park. The Cabo Espichel Dinosaur tracks are actually two sets of very different prints, one from the Late Jurassic era (The Pedra da Mua) and one set of cretaceous period (the Jazidas de Lagosteiros). It is quite amazing that the two sets of prints are less than 500 meters apart but are separated by about 50 million years.
The massive cliffs of the Cabo Espichel
Pedra da Mua Dinosaur Tracks
The Pedra da Mua dinosaur footprints are the larger set and are clear visible against the flat grey rock of the cliff face. There are a total of nine different dinosaur pathways with an upper estimate of 37 individual animals.
The tracks all dating from the late Jurassic period (160ma). Most of the dinosaur prints are from massive Sauropod dinosaurs and unique to this site are the footprints of three juvenile Sauropods that has provided evidence that they were social herding dinosaurs. One of the tracks displays an irregular pace indicating that the dinosaur had an injury and a limp. Two of the dinosaur tracks are from Theropod dinosaurs.
The Chapel of Ermida da Memória
The prints of Perda da Mua have been traditionally associated with the 14th century vision of the Virgin Mary by local fishermen. The vision of Mary had her riding a giant mule that ascended the near vertical cliffs. Once the apparition had vanished the giant mule’s footprints were retained in the rocks and the site became an important pilgrimage destination between the 14th and 16th centuries. The small chapel of Ermida da Memória was constructed on the rock where the vision had vanished. Inside the chapel the event is recalled by beautifully decorated blue and white tiles.
Lagosteiros Dinosaur Tracks
The Lagosteiros dinosaur tracks are more accessible but less obvious and striking than the Pedra da Mua. These prints were from the cretaceous period, approximately 130ma year ago and are the only example of cretaceous tracks in Portugal. The other interesting feature is that one of the tracks is from a running (15km/hour) Theropods dinosaur. The Lagosteiros dinosaur tracks are to the north of the lighthouse and the Perda da Mua.