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article imageDinosaur track site in Utah soon to be opened to the public

By Megan Hamilton     Aug 26, 2014 in Science
Moab - 125 million years ago, in what is now Moab Utah, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and ancient birds walked through squelchy mud, leaving footprints behind to become immortalized in a trackway that will soon be open to the public.
Discovered by a hiker in 2009, the location of the discovery was originally kept secret. Then, in 2011, scientists from the University of Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), along with several volunteers began excavating the site to get it ready for the public, Nature World News reports.
"It's tracks of the past, really, and it's very cool to be trying to preserve that information," science writer and volunteer Allyson Mathis said, per Nature News.
More than 200 tracks have been unearthed from 10 different prehistoric animals that lived during the early Cretaceous in an area that's smaller than a football field, ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a paleontologist with the Utah BLM told ABC News.
Among the tracks are a set of 17 consecutive footprints from an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex and the imprint of an ancient crocodile hoisting itself into the water. The site is, in fact, one of the largest areas of dinosaur tracks known to exist in North America, Hunt-Foster said.
"We don't usually get this," she said. "It is a beautiful track site, one of the best ones I've ever seen."
The footprints show that duckbilled dinosaurs, prehistoric birds, long-necked herbivores and a dromaeosaur similar to Utahraptor, all tramped their way over a period of several days through what is thought to have been a shallow lake, per ABC News. In one rock formation, a footprint left by a large herbivore is surrounded by tracks from a meat-eating theropod, Hunt-Foster said.
Imprints made by the crocodile shows the animal's chest, body, tail, and one foot. Paleontologists believe the impression was made while the croc was sliding off a muddy bank into the water.
In this shallow lake, sediments covered the tracks preserving them quickly, yet gently enough to prevent the tracks from being scoured out, Hunt-Foster said.
Over the passage of time, sediment continued to build up, and the tracks turned to rock. Located near a fault line, the land rose and fell. Then rains slowly eroded the rock, exposing the footprints once again, 125 million years after they had been left behind.
One of the most interesting facets of this is that for some of these species, a single bone has never been found, and, of course, this limits paleontologists understanding of ancient dinosaurs. The tracks, however, offer glimpses into the lives of these remarkable creatures.
"I really love track sites because they record behavior of dinosaurs in ways that the bones or body fossils cannot," Mathis said, per Nature World News.
The tracks have also been photographed in 3-D,The Huffington Post reports. The tracks can then be replicated in case they are damaged or destroyed, Hunt-Foster said.
"People will be able to study them without doing damage to the actual surface," she added.
The BLM is in the process of raising funds to build a trail leading to the tracks, which will hopefully be opened to the public in October.
More about dinosaur track site, MOAB, Utah, Huffington Post, Nature World News
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