Three-toed dinosaur tracks have been found in Arkansas dating from the Early Cretaceous period of 115 to 120 million years ago. They were discovered on a large privately owned field, which holds several different types of fossilized footprints. The site is about the size of two football fields.
Researchers have learned that the creatures once roamed through the area, and one print belongs to a three toad beast measuring two feet long and a foot wide.
“The quality of the tracks and the length of the trackways make this an important site,” said Stephen K. Boss, who led the National Science Foundation-funded project. Based on the rock in which the footprints were found, researchers have a good idea of what the climate would have been like.
“Picture an environment much like that of the shores of the Persian Gulf today. The air temperature was hot. The water was shallow and very salty,” Boss said. “It was a harsh environment. We’re not sure what the animals were doing here, but clearly, they were here in some abundance.”
“Through tracks, we can learn all sorts of things about dinosaur biomechanics and behavior,” Brian Platt of the University of Kansas stated. “Dinosaur bones can be dragged away by animals or swept out to sea. But we know that about 120 million years ago, dinosaurs walked right through here.”
A grant from the National Science Foundation enabled a team of researchers to spend two weeks studying the location. They used traditional tools, including hammers, chisels and brooms, but also cutting-edge technology to record images, take measurements and map the location. Rock samples from the area can also shed light on the conditions under which they lived.
“Because we see footprints here, we know that this surface was at one time exposed to the elements,” stated Celina Suarez, a postdoctoral researcher at Boise State who will be joining the faculty at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2012.