The Loh Down On Science

Did China's T-Rex (ish) dinosaurs know how to swim?

Dinosaur tracks.

Photographs and outline drawing of theropod swim trackway ZJ-II-1 and ZJ-II-2. Image courtesy of Xing et al., Chi. Sci. Bull., 2013.

Does China have a Jurassic water Park?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet paleontologist Scott Persons from the University of Alberta.

He recently traveled to China’s Szechuan Province.  Why?  To examine dinosaur tracks in an ancient river bed.  It was probably a dinosaur highway during dry periods. 

Among the numerous, easy-to-identify tracks, Persons spotted curious scratches.  They looked like just the tips of three-toed claws.  They ran about fifty feet, in a left-right left-right pattern.  Then they stopped!

Was it a flying dinosaur, running for takeoff?  And why only the claw tips?

To find out, Persons measured the distance between scratches.  He also compared the prints to full footprints from known dinosaur species.

His conclusion?  A land dinosaur, swimming!  Most likely a small theropod.  They walked on two legs and had claw-like feet.  Think mini T-rex.  Persons says the water was likely too deep, so it started paddling.  Only its tippy toes touched the bottom.

Because those stubby forearms were too short for the breaststroke, I guess.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

Thursday, from 2-3 p.m. on the LDOS blog: Sandra chats with author Ashley Merryman about her book (with Po Bronson) Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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