A long trail of dinosaur tracks recently appeared in a state park near Dallas, Texas, following a drought. The tracks, which are 113-million years old, were discovered at the appropriately named Dinosaur Valley State Park, according to the Smithsonian.
The area where these tracks were found is typically covered in mud, silt, and water, but low water levels over the summer revealed their location. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that Somervell County, where the park is located, has been under an “extreme drought.”
Park superintendent Jeff Davis told the Dallas Morning News that researchers took advantage of the hot, dry year. Experts believe the footprints belong to two different types of dinosaurs—Acrocanthosaurus and Sauroposeidon proteles—which lived during the Cretaceous Period. The former was a meat-eating dinosaur with three-toed feet that walked on two legs. It was approximately 15-feet tall and weighed 14,000 pounds. One set of overlapping Acrocanthosaurus tracks was jokingly referred to as a “huge 6 toed clawed prehistoric monster track” by the Facebook group Dinosaur Valley State Park – Friends.
In contrast, the Sauroposeidon proteles tracks are bulbous-shaped like an elephant. This type of dinosaur could grow as long as 100 feet and weigh as much as 88,000 pounds!
The dinosaurs left their prints in mushy mud submerged in shallow water. The sediment of these tracks turned into limestone, preserving them. While the Paluxy River is currently protecting the tracks, erosion will run its course and they will disappear someday.
Follow the Footprints
Volunteers and researchers have uncovered 75 prehistoric footprints in the area and are currently analyzing them—albeit not in the most comfortable conditions. Texas has been experiencing temperatures as high as 125-degrees Fahrenheit. Last year, other dinosaur tracks revealed themselves in the park—also the result of drought conditions.
Theropod tracks as well as the first distinct sauropod tracks ever found have been uncovered at this Texas park. Sauropods include dinosaurs such as the Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, and Brachiosaurus. In 1937, a man named R.T. Bird discovered multiple tracks at the park consisting of footprints from both sauropods and theropods. He visited the park with the intention of collecting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History, and his discovery revealed that sauropods walked on four legs and did not depend on the water to support their weight.
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Over the years, dinosaur tracks have helped scientists learn about dinosaur habits and activities. Davis told the Dallas Morning News in 2022 that researchers are still learning about dinosaurs through the tracks that they left behind.
Wait… There’s More
Want to know more about dinosaur footprints? Check out our episode of Up Close & Peculiar, which covers mysterious tracks that resemble prehistoric chicken feet. The episode also centers on the hadrosaurid, a duck-billed, 20-foot-tall dinosaur. This reptile has mummified skin and tendons as well as bite marks/scars that reveal a little bit about how it used its tail for defensive purposes.
If you are interested in learning more about dinosaurs, visit one of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums for some cool dino-related exhibits.
By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com