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Dinosaur footprints set for public display in Utah

A dry wash full of 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks that include an ankylosaurus, dromaeosaurus and a menacing ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus rex, is set to open to the public this fall near Moab, Utah.

There are more than 200 tracks in an area smaller than a football field from 10 different ancient animals that lived during the early Cretaceous period, said Utah Bureau of Land Management paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster.

They were first discovered in 2009 by a resident. Since then, paleontologists led by a team at the University of Colorado at Denver have studied them and prepared them for display.

The tracks include a set of 17 consecutive footprints left by the T. rex ancestor and the imprint of an ancient crocodile pushing off into the water. The site is one of the largest areas of dinosaur tracks from the early Cretaceous period known to exist in North America, she said.

"We don't usually get this," said Hunt-Foster, a paleontologist for 16 years. "It is a beautiful track site, one of the best ones I've ever seen."

There are footprints from duckbilled dinosaurs, prehistoric birds, long-necked plant eaters and a dromaeosaur similar to a velociraptor or Utah raptor that had long, sharp claws.

In one rock formation, a footprint left behind by a large plant eater is right in the middle of prints from a meat-eating theropod, Hunt-Foster said.

Paleontologists think the tracks were made over several days in what was a shallow lake. They likely became covered by sediment that filled them up quickly enough to preserve them but gently enough not to scour them out, Hunt-Foster said.

When it opens in October, the site will have a trail leading people to the tracks with signs explaining what they are looking at.

Dinosaur footprints set for public display in Utah 08/22/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 22, 2014 11:57pm]

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