Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NASA's latest discovery is purely terrestrial

NASA has been in the news a lot lately for extraterrestrial reasons, with the recent success of the Curiosity rover, and for being fun. They are now in the news for a terrestrial find: a dinosaur footprint.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, "dinosaur hunter" Ray Stanford has discovered the footprint of a a nodosaur. The nodasaur is from the family of ankylosaurian dinosaurs, who lived from the late Jurassic to the late Cretaceous period in the areas which are now North America, Asia, Antarctica and Europe.

We recall, from our childhood, references to similar, spiny armored dinosaurs with nodular tails that could be used as weapons. Those were ankylosaurs, which are the family that these nodosaurs belong to.

The footprint, shown above, is extremely well-defined. It clearly shows four dinosaur toes. According to Stanford, this particular nodosaur appears to have been moving rather quickly, as its heel did not sink deeply into the mud.

Stanford also found several smaller, three-toed dinosaur footprints in the area, which he said were probably from meat-eating theropods. Theropods can range in size from smaller dinosaurs such as Eoraptor, all the way up to huge meat-eaters such as the famed Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The scientist called the location of the find "poetic."

Stanford confirmed the authenticity of the dinosaur tracks with paleontologist David Weishampel of Johns Hopkins University, then reported the find the NASA officials.

The exact location of the fossilized print is being kept secret, as NASA officials are afraid that someone might either accidentally damage or purposely try to remove the fossilized track.

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