ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sailing Stones and Dinosaurs, the Strange Connection Made 200 Million Years Later

Updated on January 7, 2020

When we think of where dinosaur fossils are found, visions of the Midwest come to mind. We think of arid mountain regions like Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. But fossil enthusiasts from the east coast of the United States can rejoice in the fact that they don’t need to make a 6-hour flight across the country in order to find some of the most important and well-preserved dinosaur fossils known to mankind. Since the 1840s, hundreds of thousands of dinosaur footprints have been found from New Jersey to Nova Scotia in a collection of Triassic and Jurassic sediments known as the Newark Supergroup. These footprints have been studied ever since their initial discovery, but even hundreds of years later, they still contain mysteries.

Source

When these footprints were made, the ancient supercontinent Pangea was still in the process of breaking apart, and the consequent splitting created large basins which formed lakes that sediments from higher ground would fall into. The soft muds of lake margins were day by day transformed by the movement of ripple currents and organisms that inhabited the basin. One of these organisms was the large and mighty Otozoum, something anyone would say after taking a look at its massive four toed paw imprints. Tracks of this predecessor to the more famous long necked dinosaurs are actually rarer than others, but a peculiar set from Connecticut contain something never before seen from the Newark Supergroup.

The large animal moved bipedally, and probably rather slowly when you take into account its size (think around ~20 feet in length). Small, fine details like the scales of the beast’s foot are preserved on the mudstone slab, which makes it stand out enough on its own, but along with it is the perpendicular lines of some flat object that dragged by beforehand. The trace intersected by the dinosaur footprints was one that puzzled paleontologists since its discovery.

Source

Paleontologists who study the Newark Supergroup can actually tell you a lot about what it was like during the time it was filled with lakes, and dinosaurs. In the rocks, there’s evidence for cyclic changes in the seasons the basins experienced due to repeating alternating lake layers, symbolizing wet and dry seasons. The environment would experience thousands of years of dry climate; in which playa lakes and mud cracks dominated the landscape, and then thousands of years of wet climate; where permanent lakes and lush vegetation took hold. To better envision these environments, paleontologists look to modern analogs. Death Valley, California, is the modern day “dry” equivalent to Early Jurassic Connecticut. Death Valley itself is a place unlike any other in the world, holding the records for the hottest temperatures in the world and lowest point in the US. Death Valley is a great equivalent for past Connecticut because they are both examples of grabens (down shifted blocks of land between mountain ranges) formed as a result of tectonic rifting. But the similarities don’t stop there. Death Valley is also home to many playa lakes, hence being the dry analog. Tourists come to Death Valley for its scenic mountains and valleys, and in one such valley, for its “sailing stones”. Racetrack Playa is known for stones with long tracks behind them, as if they had moved on their own. No one knew exactly how this phenomenon occurred until 2014, when a GPS marked rock was time lapsed filmed moving under very specific conditions. One winter, rains fell into the dry basin and froze overnight (despite being the hottest place on earth, Death Valley is freezing cold when night falls; just like all other deserts!). The rocks of Racetrack Playa were all held in millimeter thick ice, but as the ice melted, the rocks were actually moved along with it! Some rocks traveled intermittently, and farther than others, but produced the same trails as seen before, nonetheless. And the same kind of trail seen in the Early Jurassic rocks of Connecticut’s Otozoum.

So, there we have it, a sailing stone is the likely culprit for the mystery trace seen alongside our big early dinosaur. But one more question: do we have an explanation for how ice formed in the much hotter Early Jurassic? Again, the answers lie within the rocks. While sediments collected in the basins for hundreds and thousands of years, another kind of rock found its way into the geologic record of the area. Black, quickly cooled, basaltic rock. The same kind of rifting that created the basins also produced massive outpourings of basaltic lava (basaltic lava is the same kind that you see flow out of Hawaiian Islands), in fact, some of the largest outpourings of this lava to ever occur on the planet. These lava flows occurred within tens of thousands of years of each other, and intersperse the sedimentary layers we find footprints in. Large eruptions from volcanoes are known to cause temporary decreases in global temperature known as volcanic winters, and it’s possible that the conditions for “sailing stones” came about to produce the mystery trace we investigate today.

The world of Otozoum and other early dinosaurs was a dynamic one. Through the thousands of years, the trackmakers endured dramatic shifts between wet and dry seasons, massive lava outpourings, and the possibility of volcanic winters. Still, after making it through all of these obstacles, dinosaurs would rule the world for the next hundred million years (and then some, as birds). However, more remarkable than the persistence of these hardy dinosaurs is the preservation of their movements, and of their world. When I want to travel back in time, I drive about 2 hours west from Boston to enter the Connecticut River Valley, which is dotted with sites anyone can visit to look at trackways made by inhabitants of an earth under intense environmental pressure. Yet, the similarities between our temporally separated earths is what makes us able to understand both.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)