Researchers are studying a dinosaur footprint fossil with four toe-prints instead of the typical three. The preserved track was found in northeast B.C. and researchers at the Royal BC Museum want to know what made the unusual footprint.
The fossilized prints were from a theropod dinosaur, which usually walk upright on their back legs. Theropods typically leave three-toed impressions in footprint fossils, but a track found near Hudson’s Hope clearly shows four toes.
A University of Victoria student, Teague Dickson, has been tasked with finding out how the print was made. Dickson, under the supervision of RBCM Paleontologist Victoria Arbour, thinks they may have figured it out.
While theropods do have a fourth toe, it’s generally located higher up the leg and doesn’t typically make an impression in footprints.
“It could be that this dinosaur just happened to maybe sink lower into the mud” Dickson says, “although the track is actually fairly shallow. So it’s more likely that in this case, this dinosaur had a fourth toe that was on the ground as it usually walked.”
After extensive research, Dickson found two types of dinosaurs which could’ve made the prints naturally: The bird-like Oviraptorosaur or the sickle-clawed Therizinosaurus. These two dinos have a fourth toe which could’ve made the marks.
Dickson is leaning towards Oviraptorosaur as the likely culprit, after closely studying the dinosaur’s foot bones against the fossil footprint. Dickson hopes to solidify her research and ultimately earn a Master’s degree from UVic.