|Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010|
A funny thing happened to a first year seasonal maintenance employee, Jim Roberson, while he was working in a rocky area of Colorado National Monument on September 16th. He moved a rock and found beneath it a 150-million-year-old, intact, seven-inch three-toed fossilized dinosaur track.
The park called in Dr. John Foster, a paleontologist who has done extensive work in the monument. He came to the park on September 22th and verified that the track was authentic and probably had been inadvertently lodged there during the construction of Rim Rock Drive during the 1940s. The track is from the left hind foot of a bipedal dinosaur most likely an Othnielia dinosaur also known as Othnielosaurus. The dinosaur was eight to ten feet long, four feet high at the hips, and weighed between 150 and 200 pounds.
While in the park, Dr. Foster investigated areas near where the dinosaur track was found. While climbing a rocky hillside with Chief of Interpretation Michelle Wheatley, they noticed a particularly beautiful rock with ripples and picked it up. The wafer thin rock split open and exposed lizard track types that have never been found in the Morrison Formation. Dr. Foster was thrilled to be making this new major scientific discovery. The split ripple rock exposed both sides of these rare lizard tracks, making the find even more significant.
Dr. Foster drove to another location in the park and joined staff to reexamine a large slab of fallen rock with exceptionally rare ancient turtle tracks that had been discovered in 2005. The turtle tracks suggest a herd of turtles who were partially buoyant in water by the way their tracks, toe prints, and sweep marks are fossilized. Only one other track site like it has been found in North America. Park staff were in the process of prepping the rock slab to carefully move it to the visitor center for safe keeping and public display.
As Dr. Foster was leaving he casually pointed out impressive heel sweep marks of a giant sized Sauropod on three very large boulders along Rim Rock Drive.
The newest discovery of lizard tracks is still being studied and analyzed by Dr. Foster to better reveal their story. All of these various prehistoric fossilized tracks are similarly aged at roughly 150 million years old.
Paleontologists John Foster, Ph. D., and George Callison, Ph. D. and Geologist William Hood, Ph. D., who have all done extensive research in the park, unveiled the fossils and shared information about them to the public who attended the unveiling ceremony.
These extraordinary fossilized foot prints will be on display in the park visitor center for the public to see through Sunday, October 17. Visit the park’s website photo gallery.