An exhibit highlighting Alaska dinosaurs has recently opened at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Anthony Fiorillo is the curator of earth sciences at the museum. He spends a lot of time in Alaska during the summer months looking for clues to Alaska’s past animal inhabitants. He splits his time between Denali and the North Slope along the Colville River. Among the interesting discoveries was finding footprints in Denali of a therizinosaur, part of the theropod family which are meat eaters, but the therizinosaurs went in a different dietary direction.
“It’s generally thought that these dinosaurs actually became vegetarians, and that they were big pot bellied things on two feet with long claws on their hands and their dentition, whereas a theropod had a bunch of sharp pointy teeth, these teeth tended to be quite a bit blunter which is one of the reasons why people thing they may have eaten plants,” Fiorillo said.
He says the North Slope finds are bones or what he calls the sexy fossils. He says they’re spectacular.
“They tell us who was at the dance, and the footprints are actually preserving the behavior of how these animals lived their lives,” Fiorillo said. “And so basically the tracks in Denali tell us what the dance was all about.”
“And when we look at Denali we actually see quite a bit of detail that’s not preserved elsewhere in the state.”
Fiorillo says Denali is home to one of the world’s best records of fossil bird footprints. One area is the size of a football field and contains thousands of footprints of a wide variety of dinosaurs.
He says the tracks contain entire family groups, mom, dad and babies and most are so well preserved that the fossils have skin impressions.
The display of preserved tracks and other artifacts are now open to the public.
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