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Reconstructions Help Study Tracks


Aug. 31, 2004 -- After 165 million years, dinosaurs again roamed the Big
Horn Basin this summer with a little help from the University of Wyoming
Geological Museum.

Life-sized reconstructions of both an adult and juvenile meat-eating
dinosaur assisted researchers and students to better understand what made
the thousands of tracks being investigated at the Red Gulch Dinosaur
Tracksite. The tracks were discovered in 1997 and since then thousands
more have been found at nearby sites. The sites are among the world's most
significant track finds, says Brent Breithaupt, UW Geological Museum

"Fossil remains of dinosaurs are rare from the Middle Jurassic of western
North America because a large, shallow inland sea covered the area,"
Breithaupt says.

"However, preserved footprints tell us many things that fossilized bones
and teeth may not, especially in regard to activities and behavioral

The tracks show there was a large inland sea, known as the Sundance Sea,
and that dinosaurs roamed the area along the tidal flats. Based on the
tracks, scientists say these dinosaurs ranged in size from about 18 inches
to human-size in height.

"These dinosaurs were meat-eaters moving together like families with big
ones and little ones. We rarely see this kind of behavior preserved,"
Breithaupt says.

Similar in design to the "raptors" in the movie Jurassic Park, the
reconstructions helped researchers to visualize how the real dinosaurs
traveled. Breithaupt and students retraced the tracks now embedded in

"Being able to visualize them through the reconstructions helps in our
studies of the dinosaurs that roamed here," Breithaupt says.

"This is like a crime scene investigation. We are building a case for who
they were and how they lived, based on the clues from the tracks and what
we know of the climate, environment and geology 165 million years ago."