NEMI and TRMF work together on dinosaur tracks

NEMI?s recent surface mining activities at the Trend Mine on Roman Mountain, south of Tumbler Ridge, have uncovered a number of dinosaur trackways on a steeply sloping footwall. These were reported to the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation by NEMI geologist Kevin Sharman (Manager of Technical Services). The tracks occur on a number of different rock surfaces, some of which also show large tree stumps with complex root systems. The track-bearing portion of the footwall extends a few hundred metres in length and 20 meters in height and possesses surfaces which were trampled or ?dino-turbated? by large plant-eating ankylosaurs (armoured dinosaurs), with well over a thousand prints in total.

It is no surprise that such prints were found in the coal mine, as the coal is the remains of the luxuriant forests in which the dinosaurs roamed in the Cretaceous Era. Their occurrence on the footwall right beside the coal seam represents a pattern which has been observed in other coal mines. In anticipation of such a discovery, last summer NEMI employees were given a workshop by the TRMF palaeontologists on how to look for and report dinosaur tracks and other fossils during the course of their work.

Rich McCrea, the curator of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation?s Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC), has observed that such track surfaces close to the coal seams usually only possess ankylosaur tracks and trackways, often of such high density that it is difficult to distinguish the trackways of individuals. The footprints of two-legged dinosaurs and birds are rarely present on these surfaces. Rich interprets the track-surfaces as once being swamp and bog environments with a lot of plants and trees sitting on a surface with a high water content. Ankylosaurs would have frequented these environments because they were plant-eaters and would have found plentiful food sources here long ago.

Rich explains the absence of two-legged dinosaurs in this way, ?Ankylosaurs were well-adapted to walking in these environments because they were able to distribute their weight efficiently over the large surface areas of their hands and feet. The two-legged dinosaurs including the large meat-eating dinosaurs had less surface area to distribute their weight and would sink deeply with every step. Ankylosaurs were kind of like four-wheel drives that could go just about anywhere, whereas the two-legged dinosaurs were restricted to firmer ground?.

Kevin Sharman said: ?It?s very exciting that we have found so many dinosaur tracks so early in our operations. It makes for an interesting link with the past, and bodes well for future discoveries. We appreciate the interest and expertise of the Museum Foundation, and being able to contribute through our mining activity to the record of British Columbia?s fossils.?

Museum Foundation President Charles Helm commented: ?We have been hoping for such a discovery in a mine for some time. It?s an interesting concept, that as the coal leaves the region it leaves behind a legacy that becomes the nucleus for another ?industry?, namely the Tumbler Ridge Museum, and the increased tourism it will generate. We really value NEMI?s enthusiasm and co-operation.?

The trackways were photographed and studied by McCrea and summer student Robin Sissons, and their details will go into the ever-increasing database on the region?s palaeontological heritage.