Cretaceous-Era Dinosaur Prints Found at Goddard Space Flight Center

  • Released Wednesday, January 31st, 2018
  • Updated Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 at 12:09AM
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This visualization begins with a satellite view of the NASA Goddard campus. A marker appears to show where a nodosaur print from the Cretaceous-era was found. The camera then zooms out to a global view, which is then compared to a similar view of a Cretaceous-era Earth. Differences in ice coverage, CO2 concentration, and sea level are described before surface air temperature data for both time periods fades in, showing that the Cretaceous era was much warmer than modern day.
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A newly discovered assemblage of predominantly small tracks from the Cretaceous Patuxent Formation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, reveals one of the highest track densities and diversities ever reported (~70 tracks, representing at least eight morphotypes from an area of only ~2 m2). The assemblage is dominated by small mammal tracks including the new ichnotxon Sederipes goddardensis, indicating sitting postures. Small crow-sized theropod trackways, the first from this unit, indicate social trackmakers and suggest slow-paced foraging behavior. Tracks of pterosaurs, and other small vertebrates suggest activity on an organic-rich substrate. Large well-preserved sauropod and nodosaurs tracks indicate the presence of large dinosaurs. The Patuxent Formation, together with the recently reported Angolan assemblage, comprise the world’s two largest Mesozoic mammal footprint assemblages. The high density of footprint registration at the NASA site indicates special preservational and taphonomic conditions. These include early, penecontemporaneous deposition of siderite in organic rich, reducing wetland settings where even the flesh of body fossils can be mummified. Thus, the track-rich ironstone substrates of the Patuxent Formation, appear to preserve a unique vertebrate ichnofacies, with associated, exceptionally-preserved body fossil remains for which there are currently no other similar examples preserved in the fossil record.

Zoom from NASA Goddard campus out to global view.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image licensed under NextView © 2016 DigitalGlobe, Inc.


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NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image licensed under NextView © 2016 DigitalGlobe, Inc.

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