112-million-year-old dinosaur chase reconstructed in 3D

Scientists have digitally reconstructed a dinosaur chase that happened around 112 million years ago.

PTI| Updated: Apr 03, 2014, 19:56 PM IST

New York: Scientists have digitally reconstructed a dinosaur chase that happened around 112 million years ago.

Using photos of theropod and sauropod footprints preserved in the mud of an ancient river bed in Texas, researchers found that millions of years ago a long-necked sauropod dinosaur traversed some intertidal flats near what is now Glen Rose, Texas.

Following it - perhaps hours or days later, or maybe hot on its tail in a dinosaur chase scene - came a meat-eating theropod, overlaying some of the sauropod`s footprints with its own.

Paleontologists discovered the prints as early as 1917. But an excavation in 1940 led to a third of the trackway vanishing, `LiveScience` reported.
Now, researchers have reconstructed the entire trackway, all 148 feet of it.

The dinosaur footprints come from a larger site full of tracks called the Paluxy River Trackway.
American paleontologist Roland Bird originally excavated the extensive and well preserved footprints in 1940 in Texas, but post-excavation, paleontologists removed the tracks from their original location, divided them into blocks, and transported them to various locations around the world.

Prior to their removal, Bird documented the original site with photos and maps, but since excavation portions of the tracks have been lost.

A wealth of information could be gained if the tracks could be viewed in one piece again, so researchers set about making that happen.
To digitally reconstruct the site as it was pre- excavation, researchers Peter Falkingham from Royal Veterinary College, London, and colleagues James Farlow and Karl Bates, scanned 17 photos, developed a model and compared the model to maps drawn by Bird.

Despite the variation between the photos and the hand drawn maps, scientists were able to reconstruct and view the entire sequence in 3D for the first time since excavation.

The 3D digital model helped the authors corroborate the maps drawn by Bird when the tracksite was first described.

The authors hope that this study will help others digitally recreate paleontological, geological, or archaeological specimens that have been lost or deteriorated over time, but for which old photographic documentation exists.

"In recent years technology has advanced to the point where highly accurate 3D models can be produced easily and at very little cost just from digital photos, and this has been revolutionising many different fields," Falkingham said.

"That we can apply that technology to specimens, or even entire sites, that no longer exist but were recorded photographically is extremely exciting," he said.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.