ICNITOS de Dinossáurios

Date of Submission: 31/01/2008
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
lnstituto da Conservacao da Natureza e da Biodiversidade
State, Province or Region:
Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros, Parque Natural da Arrábida
Ref.: 5255
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


1. Serra de Aire (Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros) 8 35 46.42 W 39 34 0.69 N

2. Vale de Meios (Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros) 8 49 16.46W 39 27 26.67 N

3. Pedra da Mua (Parque Natural da Arrabida) 9 13 09.09W 38 24 50.95 N  

According to article 2 from the convention concerning the Protection of the World Natural Heritage and the criteria and conditions of integrity regarding the registration of natural property in the World Heritage List (n°s 43, 44), the Portuguese dinosaur tracksites in question are seen as a whole of locations of exceptional geological and palaeontological interest as well as of global value from the scientific, didactic and patrimonial point of view, due to several issues.

  • The preserved fossils (the most relevant traces of dinosaur locomotion of Portugal's fossil record).
  • The singularity of the occurrences (these are dinosaur tracksites with enormous areas which reveal evidence of gregarious behaviour between the dinosaurs and where tracks can be observed for several metres. These tracks are made up of well preserved hand- and footprints, which reveal the morphology of the dinosaur's limbs extremities that created these tracks.
  • Contribute to the knowledge of the dinosaur evolution from the most remote times of this group (taking into account the dinosaur Middle Jurassic tracksites), its locomotion and its behaviour.
  • The geological and stratigraphic setting that allows an interpretation of the paleoenvironmental conditions when these traces where created.
  • Its favoured location and easy accessibility make it possible to teach and show Palaeontology, as well as other aspects of Earth sciences in their original geological context, to children from different school levels and to a broad public with different scientific backgrounds.

The attempt (in some cases already achieved) to turn these three dinosaur tracksites into out-door museums, through the attribution of a social function, is to ensure the divulgation and preservation of these areas, frequently threaten by several economical activities (although they are classified as natural monuments or as a place of municipal interest).

Two of these sites have on-going projects of turning them into open air museums and to give them the necessary conditions to be interpreted and enjoyed by the large public. At Galinha tracksite one project is already established and the practical experience gathered along 10 years is a guaranty for the scientific communication potentialities of places like this and as the ability of attracting all kinds of public.

These tracksites are used, simultaneously, as a scientific investigation resource for the present and the future research and as a way to promote scientific culture as well as to attract the public to this heritage. This will lead to an effective development of the region, where these areas are included, by settling and improving the living conditions of the inhabitants.

It should be further noted that other relevant tracks are currently being studied with a view to the extension of this nomination.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Galinha and Vale de Meios tracksites are the largest Middle Jurassic tracksites with exceptionally well preserved dinosaur trackways which yielded ample and uncommon paleobiological and paleoecological information in an early time of its evolution. At Galinha tracksite were identified some of the best preserved sauropod pes (foot) and manus (hand) prints with unique morphologies suggesting new ichnotaxa and allowing trackmakers identification. At Vale de Meios were recognized and described dozens of parallel theropod trackways with excellent preserved tridactyl footprints. The excellent state of preservation of the most of the footprints and the spectacular visual impact make Galinha tracksite and Vale de Meios tracksites privileged observation and interpretation point of Middle Jurassic dinosaur trackways. Pedra da Mua tracksite reveals Upper Jurassic sauropod (herbivorous and quadrupedal) as well as theropod (carnivorous and bipedal) trackways. Here well preserved sauropod pes prints with claw marks gives information about the pes morphology of these dinosaurs and the trackways allows interpretation of locomotion and behavior. Parallel sauropod trackways were identified at Pedra da Mua tracksite which reveals herd behaviour amongst seven small sauropods and between three larger animals. This was the first evidence of sauropod herd behaviour recognized in Europe and the best example between juvenilelsub adult animals. Evidence of limping gait in theropod and sauropod trackways is also an important contribution of Pedra da Mua tracksite. These dinosaur tracksites proposed to be part of the Portuguese Tentative List of Natural Heritage to the World Heritage List has long and well preserved sauropod and theropod trackways. The quantity and the quality of the prints allow us to explain to the public how life was in ancient times and turns these sites into a place of rare interest for the accomplishment of environmental education, promoting the respect for nature and natural heritage.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

[vii] The dinosaur tracksites in question contain a group of key elements that allow an interpretation of each single tracksite as well as to establish paleobiological, paleoecological and paleoenvironmental correlations with comparable occurrences.

By establishing a correlation between the stratigraphic columns of the various tracksites, one can inferred about the space and time distribution of dinosaurs. From the interpretation of these dinosaur tracks and the osteological dinosaur remains known in Portugal one can draw a conclusion from the successive fauna that existed through times in a place that is today the western Portuguese margin.

[viii] Each dinosaur tracksite offers very complete palaeobiological and palaeo-environmental interpretations through the study of dinosaur traces and other palaeontological records of fauna and flora, as well as the study of the sedimentary rocks. All the palaeontological remains either from the tracksites or from the museum collections were the aim of scientific studies in the field of vertebrate palaeontology. These scientific studies were integrated in scientific projects approved by Portuguese competent entities and took place in credited laboratories.

The dinosaur tracksites that are proposed to be part of the Portuguese Tentative List of Natural Heritage to the World Heritage List, are classified under the protection of the Portuguese Legislation which is applicable to the Natural Heritage - Sera de Aire and Pedra da Mua are considered as Natural Monuments and Vale de Meios is in the process of classification and is already considered a place of municipal interest. Moreover these tracksites are included in Portuguese Natural Parks (Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros and Parque Natural da Arrabida). Each tracksite has defined a boundary that allows an adequate protection crucial to the maintenance of the tracksites aesthetic and also has an action plan and a management plan for each year.

The natural monument of the dinosaur tracks in the Serra de Aire (also known as Pedreira do Galinha) is classified as a natural monument since October 1996, through the "Decreto Regulamentar no 12/96 of 22 October".

The Pedra da Mua tracksite (at Cabo Espichel) is classified as a natural monument since May 1997, under the "Decreto Lei no 20 197 of 7 May".

Vale de Meios tracksite is classified as a real estate of municipal interest by the "Cimara Municipal de Santarem". Its classification as natural monument is in process. The boundaries of the areas in question were defined in a way to protect the values that led to the proposal of admittance to the Worlds Heritage List.

Comparison with other similar properties

In other European countries there are many places with dinosaur tracks where the general public can observe them in their geological context, however not all are equipped with the structures that support the visitor in the interpretation of the geological and palaeontological occurrences. Some of these locations are places of easy access, situated along the coastal area (not necessarily by the beach) and the public can find footprints, which fell from the cliff as well as preserved footprints in situ (for example some places alongside the southern coast of the Island of Wight in the U.K.). In Oxford, in the United Kingdom, the Ardley quarry shows hundreds of Middle Jurassic sauropod and theropod trackways (a track record similar to the Serra d'Aire and Vale de Meios) but it has no public access, making it necessary to require permission to visit the grounds. Some other dinosaur track sites are associated to local museums and to guide tours which inform the visitors, as for example the cases of dinosaur track sites in La Rioja and Asturias in Spain, Lavini di Marco in Italy and the island of Skye in Scotland. A dinosaur track site with a similar project like the exomuseum of Serra d'Aire (Pedreira da Galinha) can be found in Munchehagen near Hanover in Germany: here dinosaur tracks are protected and integrated in an open air museum. There are dinosaur tracksites in Switzerland and France that also have the potential to be open air museums. However the exceptionality of the Portuguese dinosaur tracksites here proposed to be part of the Portuguese Tentative List of Natural Heritage to the World Heritage List, in regard to their characteristics and integration, confer them global singularity.