Footprints Suggest Duck-Billed Dinosaurs Thrived In Polar Ecosystem | KERA News

Footprints Suggest Duck-Billed Dinosaurs Thrived In Polar Ecosystem

Aug 7, 2014

Some newly-found footprints of the duck-billed hadrosaur just might change our understanding of the species.

Anthony Fiorillo is Curator of Earth Sciences at the Perot Museum in Dallas.

A herd of duck-billed hadrosaurs left behind a veritable goldmine of footprints in Alaska's Denali National Park, and Anthony Fiorillo, the Perot Museum's Curator of Earth Sciences joins KERA's Justin Martin for a look into the findings.

Interview Highlights: Anthony Fiorillo:

…on why the footprints are special:

“Well one is the abundance of them, it’s basically a football field sized collection of footprints. There’s thousands and thousands of these things, and then the preservation is exquisite because most of the tracks actually have skin impressions preserved in the tracks. It tells you something about the texture of the skin and so on. But what’s even more important about that, is that tells us that it’s the actual surface these dinosaurs walked on.”

…on what a hadrosaur looked like:

“They’re really the most common dinosaur that you find in what we call the Cretaceous. In North America they’re sometimes called the cows of the Cretaceous - they’re so abundant. They’re bipedal - they have a tail that extends back horizontally - they’re plant eaters - often times have hundreds of hundreds of teeth in their jaws and they have much smaller forearms. We have a duck-billed dinosaur skeleton on display in the Perot museum and it’s actually the world’s only Alaskan dinosaur skeleton. Adults could reach 35 feet long and the track site records adults, teenagers, and even small guys that might have been 10 feet long.”

…on hadrosaurs thriving as a herd with parental care:

“Well the track site records mom, dad, big brother, big sister, and little babies. So what we have is a multi-generational herd of animal - we argue that this was evidence for extended parental care. What does this mean exactly? It’s a little up in the air - but what’s particular exciting is that where it is. This is a polar environment and so rather than that image of bleak and barren and harsh and so-on, this site demonstrates that the arctic 70 million years ago was actually capable of supporting high biological productivity with great big herds of plant eating dinosaurs. That’s one of the appeals of working in Alaska is that it’s such a frontier, the exploration is so new that any time you turn a corner there’s always the potential for finding something really amazing.”