Utah dinosaur tracks similar to those found embedded in Spain

John Foster, director of the Moab Museum. Photo special to the Sentinel.

Some of the most ferocious meat-eating dinosaurs that trod the earth over what is now Utah also were hunting on land that now is known as Spain, the discovery of a track in Utah suggests.

One of the predators, it appears, limped along Copper Ridge in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah.

That’s the take of John Foster, director of the Moab Museum and former paleontology curator at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, who studied the tracks and realized that they bore marked similarities to the tracks of a large theropod found years ago in Spain.

The well-known Morrison Formation in the western United States has been known for years to have at least three theropod tracks, “but nobody assigned a name to any of them,” Foster said.

“So I decided to look at that. I honestly had heard very little about Hispanosaurus. It was not immediately on my radar until I started looking at some of these things.”

Though the tracks aren’t new, no one had ever tried to figure out which animal left them in the mud of the Jurassic some 150 million years ago.

Once Foster started looking closely at examples of similar tracks, he connected the Copper Ridge tracks to those of Hispanosaurus, a large meat-eater that left its mark on what is now the Iberian Peninsula during the same time.

“This was just after the break-up of Pangea, (the large land mass that separated into the continents that now are scattered around the globe).” Foster said. “The Atlantic Ocean was a few hundred miles wide” and the animals that roamed the lands that became the Rockies are also the ones that hunted on what became Europe and Africa at the time the Morrison Formation was laid down.

The theropod that trod across Utah left its prints in a sandbar that still shows ripple marks, and something else.

“The animal appears to be limping,” Foster said. “It took short steps on one side and long steps on the other.”


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