Bolivian site is dinosaur paradise -scientist
GENEVA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Dinosaur tracks discovered on a cliffside in
Bolivia show that many species of the creatures that ruled the earth for
millions of years lived side by side, according to a Swiss paleontologist.
Christian Meyer of the University of Basle, just back from the site of
Orcko near the city of Sucre, told the newspaper Le Matin that it was a
"dinosaur El Dorado" and probably the world's most important site for their
Meyer said the some 3,000 footprints making up 250 different tracks over
the cliff face of 25,000 square metres dated from 68 million years ago, or
three million years before dinosaurs were wiped out, apparently when a vast
meteor hit the planet.
"The most extraordinary thing is the diversity of the species represented
the fact that they all date back to the same period," he told the newspaper.
Tracks identified included those of a meat-eating therapod that could grow
up to seven metres long, a lumbering titanosaurus which measured 15 to 25
metres, a smaller, armoured ankylosaurus, and vegetarian ornithopods which
walked on two feet.
"The whole carnival, the whole range is there," said Meyer.
"This is the first site which makes it possible to show that these species
at the same time and in the same place until just before their extinction."
Many other dinosaur tracks have been found around the world, especially
the mid-West of the United States in the Rocky Mountains and some in
Switzerland high in the Alps near the border with France and Italy east of
But at the Bolivian site, Meyer said, the number and variety of prints
greatest yet discovered.
One theropod track was 350 metres long. Some prints left by the larger
dinosaurs -- first identified as a common group in 1841 by early British
paleontologist Richard Owen -- were 60 cm across.
The area of the Bolivian site was once covered by a vast freshwater lake.
The dinosaur tracks were made along its shores in heavy mud which then
solidified and filled with loose shale, as in similar sites elsewhere.
Later volcanic activity raised the bank, turning it into a towering cliff
local name means "Chalk Mountain."
Meyer said the tracks were first found in the early 1980s by workers at
local cement quarry, but it was not until 1994 that a Bolivian geologist
identified them as dinosaur footprints.
The 42-year-old scientist, with a grant from Switzerland's National Fund
Scientific Research and backing from private sponsors, led a 15-member
international team to carry out a full survey of Cal Orcko over six weeks in
July and August.
He said they had made silicone copies of the most interesting prints, using
mountaineering techniques to scale the sheer cliff face.
Another discovery in the area was the fossil of a flying reptile 40 cm
Most paleontologists now believe that smaller dinosaur survivors of the
meteor holocaust 65 million years ago evolved into birds.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.