Dinosaur Track Found in Alaska's Denali Park
The footprint, estimated to be 70 million years old, was found on June 27 near a campground 35 miles (60 km) west of the park entrance, the National Park Service said. It was the first evidence of dinosaurs ever found in Denali, one of Alaska's top tourist destinations.
The three-toed track, 6 inches (15 cm) wide and 9 inches (23 cm) long, appears to be from the left foot of a theropod, a class of two-legged predators, said Anthony Fiorillo, curator of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and an expert on Alaska dinosaurs.
"It looks like an oversized bird footprint, but it's the footprint of a meat-eating dinosaur," he said in a telephone news conference on Tuesday. The find was made by a University of Alaska Fairbanks student attending a geology and geophysics field camp in the park.
The location is what is most important to scientists, Fiorillo said. It was the first evidence of a dinosaur from this era ever found in interior Alaska. Until now, most dinosaur track discoveries have been in the Colville River region near the Arctic coastline.
"It's not necessarily the track itself that's significant to us. It's where it is that has got us all excited. Because it's an opportunity in Denali to sample a completely different ecosystem to the one that we're working on along the Colville River," Fiorillo said.
The National Park Service is working on a plan to preserve the fossil and the scientists said they are planning more dinosaur searches in Denali.