New trackway discovered

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

Another day, another new trackway.

New discoveries are fast becoming old news for the Tumbler Ridge Museum and the Peace Region Paleontological Research Centre (PRPRC). It seems like every month there’s another major dinosaur discovery.

But the new discovery is unique in the fact that it isn’t dinosaur related.

Found amongst a set of theropod tracks, Scientist Lisa Buckley noticed a series of four footprints that resemble bird tracks.

The rock was flown out of an area canyon because of the theropod tracks, and the bird tracks were only noticed once the rock was in the lab.

Work is in progress to further prepare and describe them, and ready them for display in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery.

The canyon in which these prints were discovered cuts through vertical rock layers laid down about 140 million years ago near the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary, making these footprints the oldest in the Peace Region and amongst the oldest bird tracks in the world.

“This find nicely complements a previous similar discovery from southeastern BC,” says museum spokesperson Charles Helm. “ Fossil bird tracks are already known from Tumbler Ridge and the Peace Region from four younger Cretaceous rock formations, providing one of the most globally significant records of fossil avian tracks.”

The canyon the tracks were found in were systematically explored for their fossil potential in earlier this year. In addition to these bird tracks, a number of other important finds were made.

A single left sauropod footprint natural cast has extended the known North American range of these largest of all dinosaurs north by hundreds of kilometres, and in the process established a global latitude record. (Even more impressively, at the time these rocks were formed this region was located at approximately latitude 62 degrees north.) Another site with huge depressions on a near-vertical canyon wall possibly represents trampling of a sandy surface by sauropods.

In another canyon, when a huge vertical rock wall was examined in good sunlight conditions, multiple dinosaur trackways covering an area of almost 1000 square metres were apparent. These have already been examined on rope by PRPRC palaeontologists and filmed by a national film crew, to be aired on the History Channel in 2014. They were made by large theropod and ornithopod dinosaurs.

“Such discoveries and exhibits add further weight to the application recently submitted to UNESCO for the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark,” says Helm. “These new discoveries, all from within the proposed Geopark boundary, will be exhibited in the near future in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery.”