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article imageB.C. scientists find 100mn-year-old tracks on dinosaur highway

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 28, 2015 in Science
Tumbler Ridge - A dinosaur highway studded with hundreds of tracks from extinct herbivores and the carnivores that followed them has been unearthed in northeastern British Columbia.
The dinosaurs tromped their way across the squelchy mud around 115 million years ago.
The trackway, also dubbed the "dinosaur autobahn," is huge, spanning an area about the size of three Canadian football fields, RT.com reports.
Discovered near Williston Lake about 1,500km northeast of Vancouver, many of the tracks likely come from allosaurus, a huge theropod dinosaur. Numerous tracks from the tank-like Ankylosaurus have been found.
"We're looking at a few hundred foot prints that were exposed when I visited the site. If it keeps up that density and we are able to peel back a bit of the surface and expand it by another 1,000 square meters we're likely to find there are thousands of foot prints," paleontologist Rich McCrea told CBC News, per RT.com.
McCrea, curator of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Center in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., believes there's a good chance this dinosaur highway could turn into a world-class scientific and tourism site. However, the B.C. government takes a rather ancient approach to protecting and promoting dinosaur zones, he notes. So McCrea is part of a crowdfunding campaign that hopes to raise $190,000 to promote the dinosaur track site, The Huffington Post reports.
"It would be one of the top sites, unquestionable," he said. "It already looks like it's going to be one of the biggest sites in Canada. That also means one of the biggest sites in the world."
Ankylosaurus appears to be stepping into the environment.
Ankylosaurus appears to be stepping into the environment.
By Mariana Ruiz Villarreal LadyofHats (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
McCrea said his visits to the secret site show the area was a major travel zone for Allosaurus, an enormous 8.5-meter-long predator that walked on two legs and had a huge head with rows of sharp teeth. There are also plenty of Ankylosaurus tracks, and this nine-meter-long herbivore, which weighed nearly 6,000 kilograms, walked like a four-legged tank that had a long tail equipped with a club at the end.
These tracks, he estimates, are between 115 million and 117 million years old.
"This was still in the dinosaurs' heyday," McCrea said, per CTV News. "It's kind of like the middle age of dinosaurs."
The Cretaceous world of allosaurus and ankylosaurus.
The Cretaceous world of allosaurus and ankylosaurus.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cretaceous_seaway.png
McCrea wants to have the area protected by the B.C. government, and he's part of a campaign to create a Peace Country dinosaur tourist zone. This would rival Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum. The paleontologist envisions tours to Tumbler Ridge, Williston Lake, and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley, Alberta.
Tumbler Ridge was designated as a UNESCO global geopark last fall, thus recognizing the sites' geological heritage, and the community converted a school into a dinosaur museum as well as a repository for the dinosaur fossils discovered there, CTV News reports.
McCrea envisions a tourist building overlooking the trackway at Williston Lake. A similar concept draws seven million people each year to China's Zigong Dinosaur Museum, he noted.
Tumbler Ridge Liberal Member of the legislature Assembly (MLA) Mike Bernier says he's been trying to convince cabinet ministers that this area is a crucial asset and should be protected with heritage and fossil protection policies.
"People go crazy when they see dinosaur bones and fossils," he said. "There's something about it: the old Jurassic Park movie coming to life in your riding."
Bernier says he has been reviewing heritage protection laws from around North America and plans on submitting a proposal to the government this year, CTV News reports.
Steve Thomson, B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations Minister says he has seen the Tumbler Ridge dinosaur site and he and Bernier have met to discuss strengthening the province's fossil management.
The McAbee fossil beds, located in B.C.'s Interior were granted protection from professional fossil hunters and others who were mining the area for cat litter five years ago.
"We are looking at what legislative adjustments might be needed to be put in place," Thomson said, per CTV News.
While B.C. remains behind the times, Alberta and other areas have protected and now profit from their fossil heritage, McCrea notes.
"We're missing out on all the opportunities, not just tourism and education, but also, how about just pride that the province itself is the custodian of all its natural resources," he said.
It's a chance to step into a world long vanished to perhaps walk alongside the tracks of giants.
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