History

Mystery Tracks: Did These Texas Dinosaurs Do Handstands?

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The largest dinosaurs known to roam the Earth were the sauropods. They had tall necks and enormously long tails, and generally used four tree-trunk like legs to hold them up. Or so we thought. In 2007, paleontologists at the Glen Rose Formation in Kendall County made a discovery that had them scratching their heads. The dinosaur tracks left by the sauropods who set foot there showed only the tracks of their two front legs. There were none of their hind legs… so the question was posed: Did these huge dinosaurs walk only on their two front appendages?

Clearly an anomaly for paleontologists to come across, a report of such findings was published in the journal entitled “Ichnos: An International Journal for Plant and Animal Traces,” in December 2019. This, however, wasn’t the first time that such a discovery was made. The prior incidents were all dismissed as simply being obvious one-offs in time. However, in the Texas instance, there were a minimum of 60 such impressions. This made the 2007 discovery too compelling for researchers to overlook.

Mystery Tracks: Did These Texas Dinosaurs Do Handstands?

Photo: Pixabay

Subsequently, a team from Purdue University, the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science developed a persuasive hypothesis that sauropods might possibly have been semi-aquatic. The researchers drew this possible conclusion on the theory that sauropods used their two front legs to wade through water (a river or lake) which was at roughly shoulder height. The tracks were found to be a greater distance apart as compared to their regular four-legged tracks. This represents a longer stride, which suggests that these dinosaurs navigated across such waters on their two front legs. This action would result in pushing themselves across, while their back legs floated, leaving only the two tracks. There is still more research to be done, however, before it can be confirmed by paleontologists that this was something of which all sauropods were capable. Whether they were actually semi-aquatic remains to be seen. For now, these Texas tracks indicate that at least some of these dinosaurs could have basically “dog paddled” their way to the other side of a body of water.