A SET of prehistoric dinosaur footprints believed to be up to 145 million years old have been uncovered at a quarry in Purbeck.

The footprints, belonging to a group of giant Sauropods from the early Cretaceous period, were found at the Lewis Quarries site near Worth Matravers, Swanage.

Experts believe the series of parallel prints were made by the giant dinosaurs as they walked in shallow water across a tidal lagoon.

Bournemouth University geologist Professor Matthew Bennett described the tracks as "giant saucer-shaped depressions just a few millimetres deep."

And the group of dinosaurs that left the tracks may be the same ones whose footprints can still be seen nearby at Keates Quarry, just off the Priest's Way bridleway.

National Trust lead ranger Jonathan Kershaw said: "It is exciting to think that giant sauropods once roamed where today there are dry stone walls, skylarks and nesting seabirds."

Giant Sauropods, a group of dinosaurs with long necks and four thick legs, are notable for the sheer size attained by many species such as Diplodocus and Brontosaurus.

The group includes the largest animals ever thought to have lived on land.

Professor Bennett used specialised equipment, called DigTrace, to document the tracks in 3D.

The professor explained: "This technology is now being used by the police to help track criminals via their footprints, but we can also use it to record and preserve rare footprints like these.

"The beauty of capturing the tracks in 3D is that they can be analysed digitally and even printed in the future, with no need to hold up the quarrying for long."

It is hoped the footprints will go on display in the near future.

Professor Bennett said: "“What is remarkable is that the tracks at both adjacent quarries were probably made by the same animals moving along the coast.

"The dip of the beds, folded when the European Alps were pushed up, means that the tracks are closer to the ground in Keates Quarry and can be preserved but are much deeper at Lewis Quarries where in situ preservation is not possible."

The footprints, made between 139-145 million years ago, were discovered when the quarry's surface was lowered to extract more Purbeck Stone.

David Moodie, from Lewis Quarries, said: "It became apparent that we had come across something of historical interest, so working closely with the National Trust and Professor Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University, we were able to move forward in the best way without stopping progress in the quarry itself."