Dinosaur tracks at Valley State Park
Mike O'Brien/Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur tracks from 113 million years ago uncovered due to severe drought conditions at Dinosaur Valley State Park

The severe drought in Texas has revealed previously undiscovered dinosaur tracks, additional signs the massive animals resided and hunted in the north-central part of the state.

Dinosaur Valley State Park, which opened 50 years ago, is home to perhaps hundreds of tracks of different dinosaurs and prehistoric animals as far back as 113 million years ago. Now, the Paluxy River within the park has receded to reveal new sets of tracks.

These new ones, said park superintendent Jeff Davis, "either haven't been seen for decades, or you know, that maybe haven't been seen anybody in anyone's living memory. So that is what makes it kind of special, what's going on right now."

The area where the dinosaur tracks have been revealed has historically been underwater and perhaps concealed by sandbars or rocky cover by the river, which is a tributary of the Brazos River.


The tracks found include a series made by a dinosaur with tracks often found in the park: an acrocanthosaurus, a theropod (dinosaur that walked on two legs) and a predator similar in size — 20 feet tall or more and weighing as much as 7 tons — to the Tyrannosaurus. "They're quite a bit older than T. Rex and a little big different body shape, but generally the same idea," David said. "They have a large three-toed track that is very distinct."

Other tracks were likely made by the Sauroposeidon proteles, a herbivorous dinosaur that could be 60 to 70 feet long and weigh more than 40 tons — the sauropod's tracks have also been found in the park before. It would leave "left hind footprints over a yard long, with smaller, clawless horseshoe-shaped front footprints," the park's website said.

Acrocanthosaurus likely preyed on the leaf-eating sauropods. "Like modern predators, they probably would have targeted younger, smaller, old, sick, or injured individuals," Davis said.

In addition to the acrocanthosaurus' trail of tracks, "there are many, many other tracks made by multiple species of dinos," he said. Experts continue to assess the tracks.

Looking back 130 million years or so ago, the area resided on the shallows of a massive inland sea dividing the continent. "These dinosaurs were walking in this thick, sticky mud along the edge of the sea, and then that was all covered up with silt and sediment and eventually turned into limestone and then was preserved," Davis said.

The river eventually carved through the land and exposed the tracks. "So the river is good in that way that exposes new tracks, but at the same time, it's eroding away tracks that become exposed over time," he said.

"That river is persistent. It has all the time in the world to wear those tracks away," Davis said. "So it's all just a matter of time."


The above post is reprinted from USA TODAY

 
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