Dinosaur Tracks Lead Visitors to UW Geological Museum

July 3, 2008
Man measuring dinosaur track
Brent Briethaupt, director of the University of Wyoming Geological Museum, examines a concrete replication of a dinosaur track.

Visitors approaching the entrance to the University of Wyoming Geological Museum may find themselves walking in the tracks of prehistoric creatures.

The tracks of a young, meat-eating Allosaurus, another small meat-eating dinosaur and a small plant-eating dinosaur are now permanently imbedded in concrete under the guise of the museum's iconic sentry -- the one-of-a-kind, life-sized, copper-plated Tyrannosaurus rex statue created by UW Professor Sam Knight.

Museum director Brent Breithaupt and assistant Beth Southwell recently laid out the tracks and trackways with the help of UW Physical Plant personnel in old flower beds in front of the museum.

Breithaupt says the tracks and trackways on display will be used for educational activities for students and museum visitors. He encourages visitors to compare the size of their feet with those of various dinosaurs.

A small track surface from the world-famous, dinosaur track-bearing strata of the 165 million year old Middle Jurassic Sundance Formation in the Bighorn Basin tracks also was replicated using a latex peel.

"Within this peel, tracks can be seen representing some of the thousands of meat-eating dinosaur tracks that have been found in and around the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite," Breithaupt says.

Museum visitors can become "dinosaur detectives" using a worksheet that challenges them to determine the differences between the plant-eating and meat-eating dinosaur tracks and the size and speed of the trackmakers. They also will be challenged to look for any evidence of behavioral activities of the trackmakers and to document and map all the tracks and traces -- just as paleontologists do.

"The study of tracks, ichnology, is perhaps one of the most fascinating in the paleontological field," Breithaupt says. "Tracks provide us with information not only about the type and size of a trackmaker, but are the record of ancient animal activities."

Breithaupt says the concrete tracks are among the many changes that people will see in and around the UW Geological Museum in the coming year.

For more information about the UW Geological Museum, go to the Web site at www.uwyo.edu/geomuseum or call (307) 766-2646.

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