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August 23, 2005

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Dinosaur Track Found in Denali National Park A roughly 70-million year old dinosaur track has been discovered in Denali National Park and Preserve by a University of Alaska Fairbanks

student. The discovery of the three-toed Cretaceous period dinosaur was made last week during a UAF Department of Geology and Geophysics field camp. Dr. Paul McCarthy, associate professor of geology, was showing two students, Susi Tomsich and Jeremiah Drewel, a sedimentary rock that commonly preserves dinosaur track, when Tomsich pointed to the dinosaur track and asked, "like this one?"

The track is about six inches wide by nine inches long. The track was found June 27 near the Igloo Campground, about 35 miles west of the park entrance. The area has been closed to public entry while the park develops a plan to preserve the fossil. The dinosaur track found in rocks called the Cantwell Formation is the first evidence of dinosaurs found in Denali National Park and Preserve. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Geology and Geophysics, through the efforts of Dr. Rainer Newberry and Bill Witte, have been working closely with Murie Science and Learning Center and Denali National Park and Preserve to conduct a field geology mapping course, which started in 2003. Through these efforts, the park has benefited by gaining a more detailed understanding of the park's geologic resources.

Dr. Anthony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, has persistently advocated the search for dinosaur remains in the Cantwell Formation due to its age and geological properties. This discovery by the students provides confirmation and inspiration for ongoing paleontological efforts. Dr. Fiorillo partnered with Dr. McCarthy earlier this year for his expertise on fossil soils that provides a critical sedimentological context for this discovery. Dr. Fiorillo has visited the park to search for dinosaur evidence in 2000, 2001, and 2004, and plans to continue the research this summer with assistance from Phil Brease, Denali National Park and Preserve Geologist.

The work is supported through the NPS Challenge Cost Share Program grant, a program which facilitates partnerships with other organizations and neighboring communities. The NPS has partnered with the Dallas Museum of Natural History and University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Geology and Geophysics for continued investigations. This discovery confirms that conditions exist in the park that will make future dinosaur discoveries in Denali likely.

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