The severe drought in Texas has revealed previously unknown dinosaur tracks, further signs that 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 possibly hundreds of traces of different dinosaurs and prehistoric animals dating back 113 million years. Now the Paluxy River in the park has receded to reveal new sets of tracks.
These new ones, said park superintendent Jeff Davis, “either haven’t been seen in decades, or you know, maybe this hasn’t been seen by anyone in living memory. So that’s what makes it a bit special, which is happening right now.”
The area where the dinosaur tracks were revealed was always underwater and possibly hidden by sandbars or rock cover by the river, which is a tributary of the Brazos River.
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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 of similar size – 20 feet tall or more and weighing up to 7 tons — to Tyrannosaurus. “They’re a little older than the T. Rex and a little different body shape, but generally the same idea,” David said. “They have a big three-finger track that is very distinct.”
Other tracks were probably made by the Sauroposeidon arachnids, a herbivorous dinosaur that could be 60 to 70 feet long and weigh more than 40 tons – the tracks of the sauropod have also been found in the park before. It would leave “left rear footprints over a yard long, with smaller front footprints and no horseshoe-shaped claws,” the park’s website said.
Acrocanthosaurus probably preyed on leaf-eating sauropods. “Like modern predators, they likely would have targeted younger, smaller, older, sick or injured individuals,” Davis said.
In addition to the Acrocanthosaurus track, “there are many, many other tracks made by multiple species of dinosaurs,” he said. Experts continue to evaluate the leads.
About 130 million years ago, the region resided in the shallows of a huge inland sea dividing the continent. “These dinosaurs walked in this thick, sticky mud along the edge of the sea, and then it all got covered in silt and sediment and eventually turned into limestone, and then was preserved,” Davis said.
The river eventually carved out the terrain and exposed the tracks. “So the river is good in that way that exposes new tracks, but at the same time it erodes tracks that become exposed over time,” he said.
“This river is persistent. It has all the time in the world to erase those tracks,” Davis said. “So it’s all just a matter of time.”
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