Tracks Predating Dinosaurs Discovered in Nevada

gold-butteGold Butte, NV. Image: Andrew

Researchers just announced that they discovered tracks of an animal that existed before the dinosaurs.

Twelve fossilized footprints were recently discovered in the sandstone area of Gold Butte, Nevada, dating back to the Permian Period. They are estimated to be about 290 million years old — existing long before the earliest known dinosaurs. The trackway is suggested to have belonged to a small reptilian creature, among one of the oldest on earth. The footprints’ shape, width, and length of stride attest to an undeniable similarity to a baby crocodile.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas geology professor Steve Rowland and his colleagues were studying dinosaur tracks found in much younger rock when these particular footprints were discovered. Tracks of this kind are not often found in Southern Nevada and rarely in the field as a whole — crediting to the absolute fascination of this discovery. Public announcement of these findings took place at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Salt Lake City in late October.

Ripple marks embedded into the sandstone suggest the Gold Butte area at that time was a large tidal flat region of Pangea, mostly inhabited by marine animals. The earliest dinosaurs are estimated to be about 200 million years old, with few creatures predating them, predominantly amphibians. The gravity of the revelation of these tracks in lies in the evidence they were made by one of the earliest egg-laying animals on earth.

gold-butte-2Gold Butte. Image: BLM Nevada

The 350,000-acre region of Gold Butte is brimming with intriguing history exemplified by continuing geological discoveries. While many organizations are working together to protect this national treasure, the area is in dire need of permanent conservation. The continued analysis and further study of these findings should be enough incentive — it’s not every day you come across tracks of animals older than the dinosaurs. Who wouldn’t want to know more about these ancient reptiles?

Featured image: Footwarrior