Discovery of New Dinosaur Evidence in Denali National Park and Preserve
Contact: Kris Fister, 907-683-9583
The search for dinosaur material at Denali National Park and Preserve has continued with great success in the 2006 field season, which began in early June. Eighteen more trace fossil sites have been located in the Igloo Canyon and Double Mountain vicinities of the park. The majority of the finds have been theropods, (meat-eating dinosaurs that walked on their hind legs), however several hadrosaur footprints, popularly known as duck-billed dinosaurs, have also been discovered. This discovery is very exciting as theropods are thought to have preyed on hadrosaurs, and this new evidence provides a beginning for understanding the ecosystem of Denali 70 million years ago. Among the twenty total sites found so far in the park, four different-sized theropod tracks have been found, and several new bird tracks as well. The largest of the tracks is approximately 20 by 20 inches or 50 by 50 cm.
The search for dinosaur evidence has been ongoing for four years, and the recent finds are a welcome reward. The number of tracks and the quality of preservation in some specimens greatly exceed expectations. Some of the rock surfaces are so littered with tracks and partial tracks that Dr. Tony Fiorillo of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, and the principal investigator on the project, has referred to them as “Cretaceous dance floors.”
Whereas most of this summer’s discoveries were made by trained geologists and graduate students, some of the new finds took place during a teacher workshop on dinosaurs offered through the Murie Science and Learning Center in early July. The education course was specifically designed to examine the dinosaur history of Denali. Photographs and information about the class’ discoveries can be found at www.murieslc.org.
Additional discoveries are expected as the field portion of the project continues, and as the information is examined by cooperating investigators.
Researchers were tantalized last year by the first evidence of dinosaurs in Denali and Interior Alaska, when two dinosaur footprints and multiple avian (bird) tracks were found at two different locations in a type of sedimentary rock known as the Cantwell Formation.
Did You Know?
Recent climate warming has affected Denali in ways that are readily apparent, such as reduced spring snowfall, earlier snowmelt, earlier green-up and thawing of permanent snowfields. Subarctic ecosystems, like Denali, are extremely sensitive to climate variability and change.