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Dinosaur footprints unearthed as Texas river dries up

Thursday, August 25th 2022 - 09:58 UTC
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In normal river conditions, the footprints would have remained hidden underwater In normal river conditions, the footprints would have remained hidden underwater

Scientists in the US State of Texas have discovered human remains and dinosaur footprints believed to be among the best preserved in the world, after a severe drought at Dinosaur Valley State Park, about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth, according to Superintendent Jeff Davis.

Dinosaur tracks from about 113 million years ago that were previously hidden beneath the Paluxy River have been unearthed, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Spokeswoman Stephanie Garcia.

The tracks, which were discovered this month, belong to Acrocanthosaurus, which are theropods, or bipedal dinosaurs with three toes and claws on each limb. The dinosaur would have been four and a half meters tall and weighed about 4,000 kilograms as an adult. These animals left their tracks in sediments that hardened into what is now limestone, researchers say.

“Due to excessive drought conditions last summer, the river dried up completely in most places, allowing more tracks to be discovered here in the park,” Garcia said in a statement. “Under normal river conditions, these newer marks are underwater and commonly fill with sediment, leaving them buried and not as visible.” The tracks are likely to be buried again by rain this week.

“Tracks that are buried under layers of sediment help protect them from natural weathering and erosion,” Garcia explained.

Other tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park belong to a sauropod, or long-necked, small-headed dinosaur, called Sauroposeidon proteles. This species would have stood 18 meters tall. Similar dinosaur tracks collected from the Paluxy River in 1938 are on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist and professor emeritus of earth sciences at Southern Methodist University who saw the markings last weekend, explained that these tracks joined those that were already known, and now total about 150 dinosaur footprints. “Those tracks are spectacular because they are deep,” he expressed. “You can see the toenails. There's more than one type, and there are a lot of them.” Jacobs said the prints indicated there might be more left undiscovered. As the river erodes, it will expose more, but it will also erase some others.

Nearly the entire state is facing a prolonged rain shortage, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of last week, 87% of Texas was experiencing some of the three most severe drought categories: severe, extreme, and exceptional.

The extreme climate has also led to another surprise in the USA. At Lake Mead in Nevada, human remains have been exposed in the reservoir (the largest in the country) as water levels have dropped. In Europe, remnants of World War II and ancient villages that were left underwater have been exposed.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2 °C since the Industrial Age began and temperatures will continue to rise unless governments around the world drastically reduce emissions, scientists warned.

Categories: Politics, United States.
Tags: dinosaurs, Texas.

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