Saturday, May 24, 2008

:: Arabian Peninsula: Dinosaur tracks

Dinosaur tracks found on Arabian Peninsula
23rd May, 2008

Scientists say they have found dinosaur tracks on the Arabian Peninsula, a discovery they say may shed more light on where dinosaurs lived, their migration patterns and how they evolved they way they did.

The discovery of tracks of a large ornithopod dinosaur and a herd of 11 sauropods walking along a coastal mudflat in Yemen was reported in Wednesday’s issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
“No dinosaur trackways had been found in this area previously. It’s really a blank spot on the map,” said Anne Schulp of the Maastricht Museum of Natural History in The Netherlands.

Only a few dinosaur fossils have been reported on the peninsula, including isolated bones from Oman and possible fragments of a long-necked dinosaur from Yemen, Schulp said. Schulp conducted the study with Ohio University paleontologist Nancy Stevens and Mohammed Al-Wosabi of Sana’a University in Yemen.

Preserved in rocks at the site are the footprints of 11 small and large sauropods — long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods — traveling together at the same speed.

A Yemeni journalist spotted one of the trackways in 2003. Stevens, Al-Wosabi and Schulp identified it as the footprint of an ornithopod, a large, common plant-eater that walked on its hind legs. “It’s an exciting find largely because it comes from a part of the world that is poorly known in terms of its vertebrate Mesozoic record,” said Peter Makovicky, associate curator of dinosaurs at The Field Museum in Chicago. “This is part of the world with little body fossil record.”
First Dinosaur Tracks Found on Arabian Peninsula
Anne Casselmanfor
National Geographic News
May 20, 2008

More than a hundred dinosaur footprints have been found on the Arabian Peninsula, the first time that tracks have been unearthed in the region, a new study says.

The 150-million-year-old tracks were made by ornithopods and sauropods—large two- and four-legged plant-eaters, respectively—in modern-day Yemen.

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"The first day in the field we had a herd of eleven sauropods and over a hundred prints," said lead author Anne Schulp, a paleontologist at the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht in the Netherlands.
"It's providing the first data point, at least in terms of trackways from this part of the world," she said.

The tracks were first discovered by Mohammed Al-Daheri, a Yemeni journalist, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) north of Yemen's capital, Şan'ā'. (See a Yemen map.)
The journalist alerted Mohammed Al-Wosabi, a paleontologist at Şan'ā' University. Al-Wosabi contacted colleagues abroad, including Schulp, who visited the region in December 2006.
(See a photo of newfound dino tracks made by a meat-eating dinosaur.)

Leisurely Stroll
The footprints are a good example of herding behavior along a coastal mudflat in the late Jurassic period, which lasted from about 200 million to 150 million years ago, experts say.
The paleontologists were also able to infer the size, age, and speed of the sauropods based on their prints.
"We've got young dinosaurs and old ones—[or] at least small ones and big ones—in the same herd," Schulp said.
"The nice thing is they're all traveling together at the same speed"—something like a leisurely stroll, he added.

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