Sunday, April 03, 2011

Dino footprints in Pakistan

I have had a chance to see a fantastic collection of dinosaur footprints at the Amherst College Museum of Natural History (thanks to Kate Wellspring for the museum tour!). These are part of Hitchcock Ichnology Collection, comprising of over 1100 individual slabs containing tracks and traces of early Jurassic (about 200 million years ago) lifeforms.  [by the way, this is 19th century geologist Edward Hitchcock and not the 20th century Alfred Hitchcock - though the latter Hitchcock did make a film where the living descendants of dinosaurs, birds, take center stage]

Well, now here is a story about dino footprints in Pakistan found by Sadiq Malkani of the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) [tip from Zakir Thaver]:
In 2006, he unearthed an astonishing site at Malakhel where he found footprints of a large predator, the theropod dinosaur with trackways – the line of footprints – of titanosaurian sauropod(s).
By looking at the 2006 photograph of dinosaur trackways, this illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan shows that Malakhel, Mianwali was a battle ground of dinosaurs some 160 million years ago.
He explored 15 foot prints and four trackways in a 1500 square feet area. Perhaps both types of dinosaurs were present at the same time. If so, in an imaginative scenario, a giant theropod may have attacked a herd of titanosaurian Sauropods with its hungry jaws. The footprints show that both types of animals had confronted each other at one point.
The site holds the deepest footprints anywhere in the world. Malkani has found 7 cm depth of titanosaurian sauropod’s footprint and 10 cm depth of theropod dinosaur’s footprints.
I rushed to the place and put my hand in the center of a huge footprint and tried to feel the feet of one of the largest dinosaur that ever reigned on our planet.
In geological terms, the site is called middle Jurassic Samana Suk Limestone, which was a battle ground of dinosaurs 160 million years ago and now a beautiful place rich in good quality coal, pale orange rocks with tinge of iron and tons of marine fossils such as ammonites and belemnites. The place was located just near the seashore millions of years ago.
Two research papers on the findings have been produced in 2006 and 2008. The International Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and Journal of Earth Sciences both confirmed and published this remarkable work. Two other important papers were also published by Sindh University’s Research Journal in 2007.
Unfortunately, four of the 15 footprints have disappeared because of a road for a coal mine.
After losing the trackways of theropod, the site only holds the footprints of titanosaurian sauropods. 160 million years ago, the footprints were visible on a leveled surface but due to tectonic activities over time, the site has risen and formed a 55 degrees slope, which shows the whole scenario as if it were displayed on a cinema screen.
A detail view of the wall at Malakhel with many footprints of titanosaurian sauropods. – Photo by Raheel Qureshi / Dawn.com
Lets hope the rest stay a bit longer after surviving for 160 million years. Here is a video report in Urdu:

No comments: