Science

NASA scientists luckily find 110 million years old dinosaur trackways at DC

According to Lockley, the evidence on that slab surface preserves animals as they lived rather than as they died thus revealing their age in great detail. The scientists consider the latest discovered dinosaur trackways in Maryland as one of the best and well-preserved fossil trackways.

In a surprising discovery, scientists have found fossilized footprints of dinosaurs as well as flying reptiles, called as pterosaurs, in the backyard of NASA. To be precise, scientists got hold of a sandstone slab that preserved the footprints of many dinosaurs, theropods, sauropod an also small rodents or mammals. The 2.5-metre long slab of sandstone was unearthed near NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, not far north of Washington, DC.

The fossil footprints indicated that different types of dinosaurs roamed Maryland almost 110 million years ago that is during the Cretaceous era. Back in 2012, a self-taught fossil hunter named Ray Stanford discovered the unmistakable shape of the nodosaur’s track. Then the excavation work started, and scientists deeply analyzed the footprints of more than dozen prehistoric creatures.

Lead author of the study Martin Lockley, an emeritus geology professor at the University of Colorado at Denver said, “It’s unusual to have such a large concentration of different kinds of tracks and small tracks in such a small space.” He considered this spectacular discovery as a Rosetta stone. The sandstone slab had the largest and most diverse assemblage from the dinosaur age found in the Mid-Atlantic region.

According to Lockley, the evidence on that slab surface preserves animals as they lived rather than as they died thus revealing their age in great detail. The scientists consider the latest discovered dinosaur trackways in Maryland as one of the best and well-preserved fossil trackways. The interesting thing about the discovery is that no footprints overlapped and the tracks were formed and preserved in a geological instant. That means herbivore and carnivore, reptile and mammal, predator and prey all might have intersected and potentially interacted over a few hours or days, not likely more than a week. The most amazing thing about the discovery was getting the footprints of dozens of mammals close to their possible predators’ footprints.

The footprint of a juvenile sauropod was found at one of the ends of the slab. At another end, a nodosaur footprint was found. Also, tracks of four theropods were found. And, the rest of the slabs were dominated by pterosaur footprints seemed like they were eating something. The thing that excited the scientists the most was the mammal tracks. Lockley said, “The mammal track shape is very distinctive.” After analyzing the footprints of the mammals, the scientists figured out that the mammals were in sitting position at that time and that is why they named the footprints Sederipes goddardensis.

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