July 6, 2005

Dinosaur footprint found in Alaska national park

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - A recently discovered fossilizedfootprint shows that dinosaurs once roamed in what is now anational park in Alaska, scientists said on Tuesday.

The footprint, estimated to be 70 million years old, wasdiscovered on June 27, the first evidence of dinosaurs everfound in Denali National Park and Preserve, the National ParkService said.

The find was made by a University of Alaska Fairbanksstudent attending a field camp in the park.

The three-toed track, six inches wide and nine inches long,appears to be from the left foot of a therapod, a class oftwo-legged predators, said Anthony Fiorillo, curator of theDallas Museum of Natural History.

"It looks like an oversized bird footprint, but it's thefootprint of a meat-eating dinosaur," he told reporters.

It was the first evidence of a dinosaur from this era foundin the interior of Alaska. Until now, most dinosaur trackdiscoveries have been in the Colville River region near theArctic coastline.

"It's not necessarily the track itself that's significantto us. It's where it is that has got us all excited. Becauseit's an opportunity in Denali to sample a completely differentecosystem to the one that we're working on along the ColvilleRiver," said Fiorillo.

Conditions on the frigid North Slope of Arctic Alaska weremuch warmer 70 million years ago and the area had temperaturesusually above freezing, Fiorillo noted.

The National Park Service is working to preserve the fossiland the scientists are planning more dinosaur searches in thenational park.