A grouping of 110 to 112 million-year-old dinosaur footprints pressed into mud from the Cretaceous Period have now been safely moved from their original setting on the grounds of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Until further scientific study is possible, the footprints, now wrapped in protective material, will be stored on the Goddard campus.
The discovery of dinosaur footprints came to light in August 2012 when well-known Maryland-based dinosaur hunter Ray Stanford brought one track to the center and the public’s attention. Later analysis by emeritus paleontologist Rob Weems, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va. and Goddard's consultant paleontologist Lee Monnens verified the track and discovered additional footprints hiding under a thin layer of topsoil in the same rock layer.
Earlier this year, the footprint-bearing rock was reinforced and removed.
“We successfully made a mold of the upper surface to preserve the dinosaur footprints,” said Stephen Godfrey, Curator of Paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum (www.Skullptures.com). He was contracted by Goddard to preserve and move the preserved footprints for further scientific examination and eventual display.
The original footprint was almost certainly that of a nodosaur, Godfrey confirmed.
“This is an armored type of dinosaur that had spikes all over their body. The spikes consist of bones that were embedded in their skin,” he said. “With the second large print, the orientation was different, and the shape of the print is different as well.”
Godfrey suspects the second creature was a three-toed ornithopod, perhaps from the iguanodontid family of dinosaurs, which were also herbivores much like the nodosaur.
A third, smaller footprint was originally found superimposed over the nodosaur track. Experts say it is likely a juvenile nodosaur meandering behind its parent on a more circuitous route.
After the dinosaurs left the footprints, single-celled...
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