A dinosaur stomping ground
A 110 million–year-old slab of rock covered with dinosaur and ancient mammal tracks has been unearthed in NASA’s backyard. The remarkable rock was spotted in 2012 by amateur fossil hunter Ray Stanford, who noticed the distinctive footprint of a nodosaur—an armored, tank-like dinosaur—as he left the parking lot at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Years of excavation and analysis have since revealed that the 8.5-foot-long slab of sandstone has some 70 fossilized prints from at least eight different types of animal, making it one of the best fossil trackways in the world. The beasts that stomped through include a long-necked sauropod and bipedal, carnivorous theropods, and numerous small mammals. “I like to call it the Rosetta Stone,” Martin Lockley, a dinosaur-track expert who took part in the research, told The Washington Post. Because the tracks don’t overlap, Lockley suspects they were laid down within hours or days of one another. It’s thought that the grassy grounds where the rock was found were once a bustling wetland where dinosaurs and other animals searched for food.