Large Field Of Dinosaur Tracks Found In Southwest Arkansas

Monday, November 14, 2011

The discovery of a large field of dinosaur tracks in Arkansas, researchers employed by using advanced technology and traditional techniques to learn all they can about the animals and the environment that existed 120 million years.

The site of the track in southwest Arkansas, covering an area of ​​about two football fields and contains traces of several species and fossilized traces of several animals of the same species, some have never been documented in Arkansas. The site will allow researchers to learn not only the creatures that once roamed across the region, but also on the climate during the Cretaceous period 115 to 120 million years ago.

"The quality of the tracks and the length of the tracks are an important site," said Stephen K. Boss, who led the project funded by the National Science Foundation. On the base of the rock in which the footprints were found, the researchers have a clear idea of ​​what was the weather.

"Image of the 'environment much more than on the shores of the Persian Gulf today. The air temperature was warm. The water was shallow and very salty," the chief said. "It 'been a difficult environment. We are not sure that the animals are done here, but clearly there were some rich people."

The most dramatic pieces can be found, as the three-fingered dinosaur, measuring about two feet long feet wide. Scientists believe that the fingerprints could include Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, one of the largest predators ever to walk the earth. The site also contains traces of giant sauropods, large, long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs as Pleurocoelus and Paluxysaurus. Other pepper prints the site, but it takes time for scientists to find out what other beings may have traveled in this area.

"With the trace, we can learn many things on the biomechanics of dinosaurs and behavior," said Brian Platt of the University of Kansas. "Dinosaur bones can be taken away by animals or washed into the sea But we know that nearly 120 million years, dinosaurs were walking through here."

Thanks to the accelerated grant National Science Foundation, the University of Arkansas Office of Research and Development, and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, a team of researchers spent two weeks studying the site, which is on private property. Besides scissors, brushes and plaster hand, some scientists took their computers. Cothren Jackson and Malcolm Williamson, researchers at the Department of Geosciences and Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University, documented the use of runways LiDAR, an acronym for "Light Detection and Ranging." Two different instruments were used to map the site.

First they used a Z + F Imager 5006i mounted on a platform. The imager is a scanner-based phase that emits a continuous beam of laser light that is swept landscape to measure and record up to 500,000 points per second.

The second device used to capture an overview of the site of the ridge above is a Leica Scan Station C10. This time-of-flight scanner incorporates discrete pulses of laser light at a rate of 50,000 per second, each recording a point in space. According to the way a given laser pulse, up to four return pulses are recorded by the receiver of the instrument. The location where each stem LiDAR pulse return is calculated, allowing researchers to study a "point cloud" representing the three-dimensional track.

Using LiDAR, researchers will be able to see a high resolution map of the slopes of the site and take detailed measurements of the height, width and depth of each track and the action of the treads. These measures will help to learn more about the animals' identities, movements and behavior.

While computer imaging can provide an overview of the dinosaurs, can rock samples from the site offer clues to the climate.

"Because we see here, fingerprinting, we know that this area was at one time outdoors," said Celina Suarez, a postdoctoral researcher at Boise State University, who will join the faculty of the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2012. This statement means that scientists can learn about the frequency of rainfall and the amount of evaporation that affect this site 120 million years. Use of this site and others, we can reconstruct a regional paleoclimates during the Early Cretaceous, which can help them make predictions about the future of Earth's climate.

"This site will add to the knowledge of the animal and the climate in the Cretaceous," said Boss. "Researchers will study the data in many years."

Other researchers involved in the project include earth sciences main candidate Terryl Daniels, senior geosciences major and Honors College students Alex Hamlin, Geosciences Major Junior Ryan Shell, Joann Kvam, program coordinator of the dynamics of the environment and Kenneth Kvam, professor of anthropology, all from the University of Arkansas, and Greg Ludvigson Kansas Geological Survey.

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