July 6, 2005

Dinosaur track found in Alaska’s Denali park

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A newly discovered fossilizedfootprint shows that dinosaurs once roamed in what is nowAlaska's Denali National Park and Preserve, scientists said.

The footprint, estimated to be 70 million years old, wasfound on June 27 near a campground 35 miles west of the parkentrance, the National Park Service said. It was the firstevidence of dinosaurs ever found in Denali, one of Alaska's toptourist destinations.

The three-toed track, 6 inches (15 cm) wide and 9 inches(23 cm) long, appears to be from the left foot of a theropod, aclass of two-legged predators, said Anthony Fiorillo, curatorof the Dallas Museum of Natural History and an expert on Alaskadinosaurs.

"It looks like an oversized bird footprint, but it's thefootprint of a meat-eating dinosaur," he said in a telephonenews conference on Tuesday. The find was made by a Universityof Alaska Fairbanks student attending a geology and geophysicsfield camp in the park.

The location is what is most important to scientists,Fiorillo said. It was the first evidence of a dinosaur fromthis era ever found in interior Alaska. Until now, mostdinosaur track discoveries have been in the Colville Riverregion near the Arctic 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," Fiorillo said.

The National Park Service is working on a plan to preservethe fossil and the scientists said they are planning moredinosaur searches in Denali.