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Dinosaur Footprints – Buffalo NY

Dinosuar Footprints image Buffalo NYDinosaur Footprints – Here in the Buffalo NY Museum of Science, as in most museums, the visitors are accustomed to looking into cases or on the walls to see the exhibits. In the Hall of Geology and Paleontology, however, an exhibit was installed on the ceiling!

This radical departure from the customary position of exhibits was not a psychological experiment nor entirely through lack of other space. It was because such a situation most nearly reproduces the conditions which led to the original discovery.

The exhibit so strangely placed was a series of six footprints, in relief, of a gigantic bipedal dinosaur. Each track is thirty-four inches long, of equal breadth, and each, as in nature, is separated from its successor by fifteen feet and two inches. The great reptile which possessed this enormous walking stride, the longest on record, had three toes, the general shape of a kangaroo, and must have towered thirty feet or more in height.

The finders of these tracks dubbed the colossus which made them the “Mystery Dinosaur” because they are unlike any other American dinosaur tracks, and the skeleton of their maker has never been found.

Dinosaur Footprints

A clue to this creature’s identity was found in his toe pads. Having only one to each toe, his relationship to Iguanodon, a common vegetarian dinosaur in the Cretaceous of Belgium, was indicated. This added to the interest of the find because he was then the first of that particular dinosaur clan to have been found in America.

Why are his footprints on the ceiling? No, he couldn’t walk upside down like a fly. His tracks, however, were found protruding from the lower surface of the sandstone roof of a coal mine near Cedaredge, Colorado, after a seam of coal had been removed.

What does this mean? During the Cretaceous period, about eighty million years ago, while the thick Mesa Verde formation – now including coal, shales, and sandstone – was accumulating over an area covering several of the large western states, the Mystery Dinosaur and some of his friends and relatives walked across a bed of peat. A very short time after these Cretaceous peregrinations, a layer of sand was washed across the peat, filling in the hollows left by the feet of the ponderous dinosaurs. The passage of time saw a great thickness of sediments accumulate over the old peat bed; time and pressure hardened the peat to coal, and the sand hardened into sandstone. More time saw the land elevated and the relentless process of erosion wear away the rocks to produce what is the present land’ scape.

Dinosaur Footprints

Dinosaur Footprints display imageThe final chapters in the long story began with the mining of the coal, once a dinosaur, trodden peat bed. After removal of the coal brought the ancient sandstone fillings of the dinosaur footprints to light, word of them reached the ears of paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History then working in that very area. The result of their visit to the Red Mountain Coal Mine, along with many excellent fossil plants, is on display in the American Museum in New York City – a thirty-ton slab of rock bearing a right and left print that are more than fifteen feet apart.

The tracks on the ceiling in this Museum are cast from those prints. When you stand beneath them, imagine that they were once pressed down into a bed of coal and that you are in the mine, in the space left by the removal of the coal.

Longer similar footprints have been found, but scrutiny reveals that their makers skidded a foot or more, causing a track considerably larger than their own foot.

The ceiling exhibit comprises casts from the originals. This model of the mine where the footprints were found is by Charles Long. Visitors to the Museum found its
Dinosaur Footprints
reproductions in the Hall of Geology and Paleontology.

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