SCIENCE

Ancient Dinosaur Tracks Show How Fast Tyrannosaurs Moved

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jan, 20, 2016, 10:23 PM
Tags : science
(Photo : Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian) The 66-million-year-old dinosaur tracks of a Tyrannosaurus Rex have allowed researchers to estimate the speeds at which these dinosaurs could move.

The 66-million-year-old dinosaur tracks of a Tyrannosaurus Rex have allowed researchers from the University of Alberta to estimate the speeds at which these dinosaurs could move.

Paleontologist Scott Persons found the footprints in a small town in Wyoming, while visiting the Glenrock Paleon Museum, writes Nature World News.

After careful examination of the footprints, the researchers found that they were unique markings featuring a distinct imprint of three clawed toes and a smaller claw at the rear of the footprint.

It is these features that have led the researchers to determine that the tracks likely belonged to a large carnivorous dinosaur - and maybe even a young T. rex - one of the largest and infamous predatory dinosaurs to ever have walked the earth.

"The tracks are just a bit too small to belong to a full-grown T. rex," Persons explained in a news release. "But they could very well be the tracks of an adolescent Tyrannosaurus rex, or they could belong to the closely-related smaller tyrannosaur Nanotyrannus. We really can't say which."

Analysis of the tracks led researchers to estimate that the dinosaur was slowly moving at a speed between 4.5 and eight kilometers per hour. The estimates suggest that the tyrannosaurs moved at roughly the same speed as other carnivorous dinosaurs of the same size. Their movements also suggest that they were able to cover more ground in one step than any of the largest herbivores that walked the earth around the same period - including the duckbilled dinosaurs.

Persons said that the curator of the museum, Sean Smith, introduced him to the dinosaur tracks at the age of 13.

"Sean led me out to a sandstone slope and started brushing away at an indented spot. At first, it looked like a prehistoric pothole," Persons said in the release. "But soon, I could see the imprints of three big toes each with sharp claw tips. It was so cool my jaw dropped. Then, Sean pointed up slope, and there were two more!"

Persons has since gone on to become a doctoral student in paleontology at the University of Alberta. He contacted the museum, suggesting an official scientific study should be conducted to look into the tracks.

Isolated tyrannosaur footprints have been discovered, but the Glenrock site represents one of two known multi-step track sites belonging to tyrannosaurs.

"Having a trail of tracks is important," Persons said in the university's release. "With it, you can calculate an estimate of how fast the tyrannosaur was walking."

"The tracks are still in the field," Persons added. "If you go to Glenrock, today, visit the Plaeon Museum, and are up for a little hike, you can see the prints just like I did."

Casts of the footprints have been made to preserve the footprints, and are also on public display in the Glenrock Paleon Museum.

The study was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

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