A Dinosaur Walks into the Museum

What scientific "detectives" deduced from the biggest footprints ever found

dinosaur footprints

ORIGINAL DISCOVERY: the footprints of one of the most gigantic animals ever to walk on earth, a sauropod dinosaur. Originally made on a soft mud flat, the trail was later covered by silt laid down in comparatively quiet water. On top of this, inland seas which invaded parts of Texas approximately 100 million years ago deposited sediments. These ancient, consolidated deposits have long since been elevated high above sea level, and the tracks have been exposed by the cutting action of the Paluxy River, which flows across them today. Only right hind and forefoot impressions were at first visible, but the trail continues underwater toward the rocky point beyond. Examination of the many additional prints was to settle the argument of whether these dinosaurs walked on all fours or crawled. Hind footprints were 38 inches long and 26 inches wide, and showed four claw impressions. Forefeet were smaller, more rounded, and the toes terminated in fleshy pads lacking the single claw known to have been carried by other sauropods whose skeletons have been found.

Roland T. Bird

cofferdam

FIRST MOVE in following the trail was to construct a cofferdam of sandbags so that the area could be drained and the tracks examined. The dam rapidly nears completion as men drag sandbags across the mud-filled potholes that mark the course once followed by the dinosaurs. Fossil-hunting, entirely a new experience to the crew, all local men, excited mild curiosity in some, in others, keen interest. When told that the name Brontosaurus means “thunder lizard,” Monroe Eaton declared, “One certainly went here that shook the ground.”

Roland T. Bird

Dinosaur tracks in drained area

TRACKS begin to appear as water is drained from the area. Lacking a gasoline pump, the men used buckets to remove the water, and could bail about twelve barrels a minute by this method. Keen to see what the tracks were like, they completed the task in less than two hours. But recurrent floods were to refill the dam many times.

Roland T. Bird

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