GREENBELT, Md. (BP) — Scientists recently found fossil evidence that dinosaurs and mammals once frolicked together across land at what’s now the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The discovery, described in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports, excited researchers because it represents, by far, the highest concentration of mammal tracks, as well as the largest mammal prints, ever discovered from the dinosaur age.
Until now, scientists have only unearthed rodent-sized mammal prints from that period.
Scientists discovered the prints in an 8-by-3-foot slab of rock imprinted with nearly 70 tracks from eight species, including 26 mammals and various dinosaurs such as the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus rex. They also discovered prints from an adult nodosaur, a huge, tanklike creature, accompanied by a baby nodosaur.
Some researchers think the animals likely left their prints within a few days of each other, and none of the tracks overlapped. Several of the mammal tracks showed hind feet only, suggesting the animals sat on their haunches, possibly eating. One scientist speculated prey ran from predators across the slab, but no consensus has emerged as to exactly how the tracks were made.
Intelligent design proponent David Coppedge shared his thoughts about the discovery on the Creation and Evolution Headlines blog.
“Once again we see evolutionists surprised to find good-sized mammals with dinosaurs,” he wrote. “Something’s rotten in the state of Darwinland.”
Andrew Snelling, a geologist and director of research for Answers in Genesis, said the evidence of an ancient global flood, like what is described in Genesis, is the truly interesting aspect of this discovery. He believes the animals made the prints within hours, not days.
Footprints get obliterated after more than a few hours of exposure unless sediment quickly covers them, he said. The preservation of these tracks indicates the animals made them in a very short period of time, an hour or so at most, he said. It also indicates that rapidly moving water, like the surging waters of a large flood, covered the sediment very quickly.
The non-overlapping prints and evidence that many of the mammals sat on their haunches suggests to Snelling that the animals gathered on the rock at the same time without concern about potential predators.
“Chances are many of these animals probably spent some time either wading or being carried along in water and then the level dropped so they put their feet down to get a rest and catch their breath,” he said.