Rare Ice Age Footprints Discovered in New Mexico by a Pair of College Students
Read the whole article and see some photos here.
Don’t miss the part from 0:46 to 0:52 in which the plants show where the tracks are.
Scientists at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico are studying hundreds of rare mammalian footprints discovered by a pair of college students. The prints date back to the Ice Age, and are providing clues about what the southwest region was like before the last great extinction.
The students made the discovery along a barren desert terrain embellished with scrabbly saltbrush and ankle high tufts of yellow sacaton. Just across from the site are 275 square miles of pristine white sand - a diamond in the rough Tularosa basin of southern New Mexico. The dunes are the heart of White Sands National Monument, where half a million tourists head each year.
Vincent Santucci, a senior geologist with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C said there are thousands of dinosaur prints scattered throughout the country but for some unknown reason, Ice Age prints are far rarer. There are only a few dozen sites in the southwest. Their rarity adds to their scientific value, especially since Ice Age creatures were the last to go extinct before the evolution of modern man.
‘Events that occurred during the Ice Ages help to shape how our modern plants and animals and their diversity is today,’ Santucci said.
These footprints may provide clues into the mysteries of climate change. A study published in the journal Nature earlier this month concludes that climate change was one factor that led to the dying off of many Ice Age giants. These are the kind of studies that fascinate paleontology student Drew Gentry, who is one of the interns who discovered the prehistoric prints at White Sands.
Gentry’s been collecting rocks and dreaming of dinosaurs since he was a kid growing up in Alabama. Now that he’s in New Mexico he’s reveling in a largely unexplored territory rich with fossilized treasures. Just last year quarry workers in a gravel site near Las Cruces discovered a 1.6 million year old mastodon skull in excellent condition. Gentry was called in to assist after the find. The skull is one of only 5 so far discovered on the planet.
The nice thing about our “barren desert terrain” is that we don’t have a bunch of foliage and layers of rotting leaves or pine needles covering up the good stuff.
But even parts of the Tularosa Basin aren’t so barren.
OK, maybe that still looks barren to some of you…