Researchers may have just scratched the surface of a major new dinosaur site nearly inside the Arctic Circle. This past summer, they discovered thousands of fossilized dinosaur footprints, large and small, along the rocky banks of Alaska's Yukon River.
In July, the scientists from the University of Alaska Museum of the North embarked on a 500-mile (800 kilometers) journey down the Tanana and Yukon rivers; they brought back 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of dinosaur footprint fossils.
Lots of Tracks
The crew found dozens of dinosaur tracks along one Yukon River beach. From left: Paul McCarthy, Julie Rousseau, Meghan Shay, Katherine Anderson, Meg O’Connor, Pat Druckenmiller and Jørn Hurum.
Tracks at every outcrop
Kevin May, Pat Druckenmiller and Paul McCarthy (left to right) inspecting an outcrop of Cretaceous rock along the Yukon River.
"We found dinosaur footprints by the scores on literally every outcrop we stopped at," McCarthy, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said in a statement. "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."
Katherine Anderson, Meg O’Connor, and Julie Rousseau wrap aluminum foil around tracks for safe transport back to the museum. Pat Druckenmiller is assigning field numbers and recording field notes about the fossils.
The inflatable boats (aka "dinobarge") used to travel down the Yukon River where the scientists found thousands of dinosaur footprints.
Blobs with toes
The dino tracks were preserved in "natural casts" formed after the creatures stepped in mud, and sand filled in their footprints. The result? Fossils that look like "blobs with toes," Druckenmiller said. Here, a hind foot print of an herbivorous dinosaur.
Down they go
The dinobarge in action: heading down the Yukon River.