Dinosaur footprints discovered in Hebei

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A worker measures dinosaur footprints discovered in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, last month. CHEN XIAODONG/FOR CHINA DAILY

More than 4,300 dinosaur footprints have been discovered in Zhangjiakou, north China’s Hebei province, with most of those marks found in a single location in the country, according to the Hebei Department of Natural Resources, which recently disclosed the results of a related investigation.

From the footprints, scientists can determine how the dinosaurs walked, calculate their length, weight and height, and even estimate their walking speed.

“The footprints not only reflect the living habits and behavior of dinosaurs, but also explain the relationship between dinosaurs and their living environment at the time,” said Xing Lida, a dinosaur expert from the University of Geosciences. from China.

Li Jianjun, a researcher from the Beijing Museum of Natural History, echoed Xing.

“Dinosaur bones become fossils after they die, while dinosaur footprints are left when they were alive, which provide wonderful information about how dinosaurs lived. They can provide a lot of information about their behavior, as well as information on paleogeography and paleoenvironment, therefore, dinosaur footprints play an irreplaceable role,” Li said.

The Zhangjiakou site surpassed the record set at a site in Sichuan province that has more than 900 dinosaur footprints.

The footprints in Zhangjiakou were discovered in April 2020 in an area of ​​more than 9,000 square meters in the city’s Xuanhua District, the largest area with dinosaur footprints found in the country, Li said.

According to the Hebei Department of Natural Resources, the site was covered for protection after experts made three-dimensional imagery and cast molds of the footprints.

“It can be inferred that the footprints belong to a time around the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when there were large forests and water sources here,” said Sun Xiao, chief engineer at the Regional Prospecting Institute. geological affiliated with Hebei Bureau of Geology and Geology. Exploration of mineral resources, quoted by Hebei Daily. Sun participated in the investigation and the search for the fingerprints.

Large numbers of herbivorous sauropods and carnivorous theropods could have coexisted back then, Sun added.

Pointing to a three-fingerprint at the site that resembles a bird’s claw, Li said the sharp footprints are mostly left by carnivorous dinosaurs. Their footprints are about 10 centimeters long. Among them, the largest is 37.5 cm long.

“Based on this, we can infer that the dinosaur’s body length was four to five meters, being at the top of the food chain at that time,” Li said.

According to Sun, they discovered dinosaur footprints of four different genera along more than 70 tracks at the site. The footprints are located on fine, stony sandstone that is 150 million years old and covered with thick volcanic ash, providing good conditions for the preservation of the footprints.

A large number of dinosaur fossils and footprints have been found in Zhangjiakou and Chengde in Hebei in recent years, indicating that these two places saw frequent dinosaur activity hundreds of millions of years ago. , added Sun.

“At present, our research on paleontological fossil resources, including dinosaur footprints in both locations, is ongoing,” he said.

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