Researchers at the Morrison Natural History Museum have discovered two rare hatchling dinosaur footprints in the foothills west of Denver, near the town of Morrison.
The fossil footprints represent the first hatchling Stegosaurus footprints ever found, according to leading paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker, the museum's curator of paleontology. Stegosaurus was first discovered in Morrison in 1877 and is Colorado's state fossil.
"The tracks are so crisply preserved that I can imagine the sound of tiny feet splashing up water when the baby dinosaurs came to this ancient river to drink and cool down," remarks Museum Director Matthew Mossbrucker, who found the tracks. "I still can't get over just how small these footprints are."
The tracks can be eclipsed by a fifty-cent piece, suggesting that hatchling Stegos were about the size of newborn human baby.
The fossils will go on permanent display at the Morrison Natural History Museum Memorial Day weekend as part of its annual "Dinosaur Days" event.
Abundant in natural history, the tiny foothills town of Morrison has yielded important fossils since 1877. Morrison Natural History Museum researchers began exploring the 150-million-year-old Jurassic rocks of the Morrison area in 2003 with support from Aggregate Industries, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, and the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences. Coincidentally, 2007 marks the 130th anniversary of the first fossil finds in the area.
"If these dinosaurs were hatching in our modern world instead of 150 million years ago, they would be within sight of Denver’s skyscrapers, " says Mossbrucker. "These infant dinosaur fossils have raised more questions than they have answered. We'll have to keep digging."
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