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Re: Monster find at Hell Creek

The more I look at it, the photo in the story below seem incongruent with my slowly growing experience of literally living on top of Hell Creek outcrops. The mud (with cracks) seems unnatural on top of the lichen. Most local lichen (of the type this looks to be) grows on sandstone surfaces devoid of any mud. Lichen (of which individual colonies may be quite old and very slow growing) seem to prefer really long term stable rocks with clean exposed sunlit surfaces. In other words, the grain of the surface surrounding the lichen doesn't look like a natural occurring surface of Hell Creek sands. It looks like wet down scattered mud. The bentonitic muds in HC wouldn't let lichen grow on the surface (or rather the lichen wouldn't grow there because of the swelling nature of the bentonitic clays). So what I am saying is, it looks like a photo of some lichen with some mud splattered on top which seems to "enhance" the shape of a foot print. I am not saying it is a fraud, just that the photo doesn't look convincing to someone who looks at Hell Creek sand/muds/clays nearly every day.

In my experience, chunky mud that looks like this from Hell Creek was freshly dug from an outcrop and got wet once. The wetting breaks it into small irregularly shaped chunks as in the photo. Mud that has been weathered on a lot would be very smooth, fine and a consistent floury grain size. I would love to see more, higher resolution photos of it with a scale showing the surrounding outcrop. Everything just seems wrong to me.

Again this is all speculation from an inadequate photo but the other thing that it could be is highly weathered bone (powdered) weathering out in some odd cross sectional exposure with the muddy surface. (Assuming my lichen identification is incorrect.). I have seen very similar things (in different shapes of course) from the root zone (highly weathered portion) of HC bone beds .

It would also be interesting to know where in the 700 feet thick sequence of Hell Creek formation, this was located. Oldest rex footprint? Hummm. Typical press coverage of oldest, biggest, baddest, most, smelliest, etc, etc, etc.

Frank (Rooster) Bliss
MS Biostratigraphy
Weston, Wyoming

On Oct 10, 2007, at 12:00 PM, Denver Fowler wrote:

Beautiful prints only a few mm thick can appear on the foreshore at Hanover
Point, Isle of Wight, England only to be washed away by the next few tides so
thickness doesn't seem to be important.

Not really. Most of the IOW prints are visible because they are infilled with clay or sand of a different colour. It's not so much that the print/cast itself is only mm thick: most of the sst prints are pretty darned thick, up to a foot or more (!) and often show 3d twisting of the foot etc. really cool actually. The clay prints are still 6 inches deep or more: about what you'd expect for a large animal stepping onto soft mud. These thick prints get slowly serially sectioned by the erosion of the tide, and can look not- much-like prints once they get a little eroded.

Some iguanodon footcasts:

and I have US14 (UK13) size feet for scale.

There's a big range of tracks visible there.. sauropods, ankylosaurs, theropods and ornithopods of different sizes: thing is the big iggy prints are the most conspicuous.

As for size - with the bigger beasts
unless there are great claw marks can anyone really tell the difference
between an ornithopod and a theropod from the outline?

Yes they can.

And anyway.. the footprint described as t-rex from new mexico, is certainly theropod, and the sheer size of it would suggest a large tyrannosaur.



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