Drought reveals Texas dinosaur footprints from 113 million years ago

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Seriously dry conditions outside Dallas have uncovered evidence of a long-dead Texan.

Footprints from an Acrocanthosaurus — a 113 million-year-old dinosaur — normally lie at the bottom of the Paluxy River inside Dinosaur Valley State Park.

But as intense drought hit Texas this summer, the river dried up and revealed the prehistoric tracks.

A representative from the state park told CNN that the newly revealed tracks belonged to an Acrocanthosaurus, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that stood 15 feet (4.6 metres) high.

Footage of the tracks shows three wide toes splaying out from the heel, reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Acrocanthosaurus actually lived a bit after the Jurassic, in the Early Cretaceous period.

Tracks at the state park were first discovered in 1909, according to their website. By the 1930s, palaeontologists had identified tracks in the park as belonging to theropods – like Acrocanthosaurus and T. rex – and sauropods, similar to the famous Brontosaurus.

In 2022, Dinosaur Valley State Park sits about 70 miles (112 kilometres) outside Dallas. But in the Early Cretaceous, this area was on the edge of an ocean and covered in mud that collected dinosaur tracks, the park’s website says.

The area of Texas near Dinosaur Valley State Park is in the middle of “extreme” to “exceptional” drought conditions, according to the US government’s drought monitor.

This dry period is part of the ongoing “megadrought” in the southwest US, which plagued the region for over 20 years. According to one recent study, this is the driest period in the region for at least 1,200 years.

Other long-gone secrets – though not quite as long-gone – have also been revealed in the southwest as a result of the drought. In Lake Mead, officials have found five sets of human remains this summer, including one believed to be the victim of a crime from the late 1970s or early 1980s.

A sunken boat from the Second World War era has also been revealed as the lake’s shoreline shrinks.

The current megadrought is being powered by the climate crisis, and scientists expect droughts to get worse and more frequent as the planet continues to warm.

In addition to drought, Texas has also faced repeated heatwaves this summer, with temperatures regularly exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Intense storms this week in Dallas have left many roadways flooded and at least one person dead.

This is a breaking story, more to follow

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