There is little use in denying the world’s denizens’ fascination with dinosaurs. It began well before Michael Crichton ever penned Jurassic Park, The American Museum of Natural History has seen over 5 million visits a year for decades and the biggest draw? Dinosaurs. We’ve always been fascinated by them, your average five-year old who can barely pronounce the word “extinct” knows that they were likely eradicated by a meteor or a series of meteors.
Five years ago an unnamed Moab, Utah resident was out on a hike when he/she discovered a dry wash full of dinosaur tracks that include an ankylosaurus, dromaeosaurus and an ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus rex. That impressive find has been kept secret but to a handful for five years but now that the site has been worked extensively its ready to be unveiled to the public.
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Preserved for study
Scientists from the University of Colorado and the Bureau of Land Management studied the site north of Moab and excavations began last year. Now it’s up to volunteers to ready the site for the inevitable tourism that will come with the find.
“It’s tracks of the past, really, and it’s very cool to be trying to preserve that information,” science writer and volunteer Allyson Mathis said.
“Over 200 tracks that we’re aware of so far that we’ve uncovered,” volunteer Lee Shenton said. “And at least one case where there’s 17 consecutive prints from the same animal. I think it’s going to be something really important. It has at least a dozen different animals.”
For many of these species it’s essentially a first glimpse at a few creatures that have never left a single bone lying around for study.
“About 125 million years ago in the cretaceous,” BLM paleontologist Rebecca Hunt-Foster said. “So it helps kind of fill in these gaps about these animals that we don’t know much about, that we know were here, but we just don’t find their bones.”
While the T-Rex has long captivated the imagination of children while sometimes causing nightmares, this site has exceptional diversity of species.
Duckbilled dinosaurs, prehistoric birds, and plant eaters are all represented. There is even an imprint of an ancient crocodile that paleontologists believe show that it was pushing itself off a muddy bank into a shallow lake.
Hunt-Foster believes the tracks were then filled-in with sediment which preserved them. Over time the sediment build up turned them to rock. Given the near fault line the land shifted and rain washed them to point of making them visible.
The BLM is hoping to raise enough funds to build a trail to the tracks and ultimately a boardwalk two feet over them so they can be observed without being trod on by visitors.