Alaska Dinosaur Tracks: Thousands Of Footprint Fossils Found Along The Yukon River

By Josh Lieberman on September 26, 2013 4:31 PM EDT

dinosaur
A team from the University of Alaska Museum of the North has discovered thousands of dinosaur tracks along the Yukon River in Alaska. (Photo: Reuters)

Researchers in Alaska have uncovered a trove of fossilized dinosaur tracks along the Yukon River. This summer, a team of 14 scientists from the University of Alaska Museum of the North trekked down 500 miles of riverbank, hoping to find a couple of dinosaur tracks among the rocks. When the two-week mission was over, they'd collected 2,000 pounds of fossils; one ten-minute search alone resulted in the collection of 50 fossils.  

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"We found dinosaur footprints by the scores on literally every outcrop we stopped at," said expedition researcher Paul McCarthy. "I've seen dinosaur footprints in Alaska now in rocks from southwest Alaska, the North Slope and Denali National Park in the Interior, but there aren't many places where footprints occur in such abundance." 

The team searched the banks of the Yukon River from the villages of Ruby to Kaltag. The area is one of Alaska's richest sites for dinosaur fossils, according to Pat Druckenmiller, the earth sciences curator for the University of Alaska Museum. The researchers found fossils of both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. The fossils will help scientists determine when and where dinosaurs roamed Alaska, as well as what kind.

The Alaska dinosaur tracks do not indent inwards; instead, they protrude up from rock, looking like "blobs with toes." Mark Norell, the head of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, compared how the dinosaur fossils formed to a footprint left behind on a wet beach.

"If there's a big storm and the footprint is covered in clay blown from the hillside, it will cover the footprint," Norell told ABC News. Millions of years later, the clay ends up taking on the shape of the foot. "It's like you're seeing the animal's foot while it was alive."

The researchers only had permits to search around the banks of the Yukon, but Druckenmiller hopes to gain permission to explore on Alaska Natives' land and return next summer.

READ MORE:

Dinosaurs Warm-Blooded: Cold-Blooded Dinosaurs Wouldn't Have Been Muscular Enough To Survive, Suggests Study

Model Dinosaur In Wind Tunnel Suggests Microraptor Feathers Were For Mating, Not Flying [VIDEO]

Ancient Crocodiles Were Able To Run Like Dogs And Walk On Two Feet To Evade Dinosaurs, Say Researchers

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