Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dinosaur footprints at NASA Goddard take another step

Date:
February 5, 2013
Source:
NASA
Summary:
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.

About 110 million light years away, the bright, barred spiral galaxy NGC3259 was just forming stars in dark bands of dust and gas. On Earth, a plant-eating dinosaur left footprints in the Cretaceous mud of what would later become the grounds of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. A model of a Nodosaur dinosaur sits inside what is believed to be the fossil of a Nodosaur footprint. The footprint was found by Ray Stanford a local dinosaur hunter.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Rebecca Roth

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 organisms feeding on nutrients in the Cretaceous mud precipitated an iron-rich mineral known as hematite that solidified and preserved the tracks until natural processes buried and fossilized them, said Stanford.

Excavation of the stone with the dinosaur footprints had to wait until geologists and paleontologists learned more about the find and its surroundings, in accordance with Bureau of Land Management guidelines.

In December, 2012, Goddard scientists using ground penetrating radar showed that the sedimentary rock layer bearing these prints was preserved in its original location, but that investigation found no additional indications of locations of dinosaur track specimens of scientific value.

Further hands-on exploration by Goddard volunteers, including Godfrey, took place in mid-December 2012. Volunteers dug in several areas around the initial find location, but turned up no additional preserved footprints.

The entire find, containing at least three dinosaur footprints, is approximately seven feet long and three feet across at its widest point. Additionally, the footprint-bearing layer is bonded to a separate layer of iron-rich sandstone that complicated the efforts to extract and preserve it.

Before removing the rock layer, Godfrey made a silicon-rubber cast of the prints, then jacketed the entire find in multiple layers of plaster-soaked burlap (i.e. just like a cast) to add rigidity and to further ward against breakage during transport. Galvanized steel pipes wrapped into the jacket acted like splints to provide additional structural support.

The combined weight of the footprint, field jacket material and surrounding soil that was removed was estimated at approximately 3,000 pounds, so extra care was taken in moving it to avoid damaging the rather extraordinary find.

The future disposition of the dinosaur-track-bearing rock layer has not yet been determined. Senior management at Goddard will work with government officials and scientists to determine the best course of action.

"One of the amazing aspects of this find is that some of the starlight now seen in the night sky by astronomers was created in far-distant galaxies when these dinosaurs were walking on mud flats in Cretaceous Maryland where Goddard is now located," said Jim Garvin, Chief Scientist at NASA Goddard. "That starlight (from within the Virgo Supercluster) is only now reaching Earth after having traveled through deep space for 100 million years."

Center Director Chris Scolese added, "Much of the work at Goddard is focused on Earth and space science. The discovery and follow-on work with the dinosaur footprints created a wonderful blending of sciences. You have astronomy -- the study of the Universe, geology -- the study of the Earth, and paleontology -- the study of the prehistoric life on Earth and they have all come together here at NASA Goddard."

Read more on the history of Goddard's nodosaur: http://go.nasa.gov/PMe8rJ


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "Dinosaur footprints at NASA Goddard take another step." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130205122901.htm>.
NASA. (2013, February 5). Dinosaur footprints at NASA Goddard take another step. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130205122901.htm
NASA. "Dinosaur footprints at NASA Goddard take another step." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130205122901.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins