updated 10/5/2007 1:06:48 PM ET 2007-10-05T17:06:48

Normally thieves leave footprints behind, but crooks in Switzerland went the other way, stealing a fossilized imprint made by a dinosaur's foot, officials said Friday.

Scientists working on an archaeological dig in the Jura mountains — which lend their name to the Jurassic period 206 million to 144 million years ago — say a stone slab containing the three-toed dinosaur footprint was lifted from the site several days ago despite weighing several hundred kilograms (pounds).

Wolfgang A. Hug, head of the Jura cantonal (state) Department for Paleontology, said the thieves would have a hard time selling the print, left behind over 100 million years ago by a flesh-eating allosaurus.

Swiss daily Quotidien Jurassien cited archeologists saying the print could fetch tens of thousands of Swiss francs (dollars) on the black market.

But Hug said the object would be easy to identify.

"Sadly for those who stole this footprint, we have pictures of it," he said, adding that he was almost certain the fossil would be recovered if the thieves try to sell it.

"I suggest the culprits come and put the footprint back discreetly," Hug said.

The print, still in the very place where the dinosaur trod, was part of a larger collection of dinosaur traces being examined at the site.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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