As the world suffers from a punishing drought this summer, bodies of water have dried up, exposing submerged World War II relics in Europe, several sets of human remains at Lake Mead outside Las Vegas, and even an entire village in Spain.
The most recent discovery as water levels fall: dinosaur tracks in Texas.
According to Stephanie Garcia, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokeswoman, severe drought conditions at Dinosaur Valley State Park, about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth, exposed dinosaur tracks from around 113 million years ago that were previously hidden beneath the Paluxy River. Acrocanthosaurus tracks discovered this month belong to theropods, or bipedal dinosaurs with three toes and claws on each limb.
As an adult, the dinosaur would have stood 15 feet tall and weighed close to seven tons. According to the researchers, they would have left their tracks in sediment that hardened into what is now limestone.
“Due to the extreme drought conditions this summer, the river dried up completely in most locations, allowing for more tracks to be discovered here in the park,” Ms. Garcia explained in a statement. “Under normal river conditions, these newer tracks are submerged and frequently filled in with sediment, burying them and making them less visible.”
Rain is expected to bury the tracks once more this week. However, even if only for a brief moment, the discovery piqued the interest of researchers and the general public.
“Tracks that are buried beneath layers of sediment help protect them from natural weathering and erosion,” Ms. Garcia explained.
Other tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park belong to Sauroposeidon proteles, a sauropod, or long-necked, small-headed dinosaur. As an adult, this species would have stood 60 feet tall and weighed 44 tons.
The tracks were discovered on Saturday by Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist and emeritus professor of earth sciences at Southern Methodist University. He claims that the newly discovered tracks joined previously known trackways, totaling about 150 dinosaur steps.
“Those footprints are spectacular because they’re so deep,” he explained. “You can see my toes. There are several types, and there are many of them.”
Mr. Jacobs believes the prints indicate that there may be more that have yet to be discovered. As the river erodes, it will expose more while also erasing some.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City has dinosaur tracks collected from the Paluxy River in 1938.
According to James Farlow, a vertebrate paleontologist and adjunct biology professor at Purdue University Fort Wayne, similar tracks have been discovered in British Columbia and South America.
He claims that the river and park have been teaching scientists about dinosaur behavior for decades. However, the discoveries are frequently at the mercy of the elements, such as freezing rocks in the winter, which crack the tracks.
The footprints were discovered on a sedimentary rock unit called the Glen Rose Formation, which is mostly limestone and was deposited about 105 to 110 million years ago, according to Mr. Farlow.
“Texas is blessed with a lot of good fossil occurrences, not only of dinosaur footprints but also of dinosaur skeletons,” Mr. Farlow said.
“It’s a resource that is constantly being destroyed but also constantly being renewed,” he added.
Following a period of intense heat and dangerous wildfire, Texas is experiencing extreme weather, with parts of the state experiencing drought and others experiencing flash flooding.
Some parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area received more than 13 inches of rain on Sunday and Monday, prompting Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s top elected official, to declare the region a disaster. Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to mobilize resources to assist flood-affected residents.
Texas has experienced water restrictions as a result of the drought, with 27 percent of the state under the most severe category of drought warning.
A rapid transition from extreme dry to extreme wet conditions is referred to as “precipitation whiplash” by scientists.