Dinosaur tracks discovered in B.C.

October 07, 2004, vol. 31, no. 3
By Carol Thorbes

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Peter Mustard and a fellow geologist were mapping a ridge of rock in northwestern B.C.'s Bowser Basin when something stopped them dead in their tracks.

Mustard, a Simon Fraser University earth scientist and Mike Boddy, a geologist with the B.C. ministry of energy and mines, discovered dinosaur tracks about 200 kilometres due north of Terrace. They are the oldest and the furthest west dinosaur tracks to be found in B.C.

The 25 centimetre long footprints belong to a three-toed, upright, walking, carnivorous dinosaur, about the size of a human being and similar to dinosaurs made famous in the hit movie Jurassic Park. They date back to early in the Cretaceous period, about 125 to 145 million years ago.

“The early Cretaceous world was very different from today,” notes Mustard. “It was almost entirely a tropical and subtropical climate, right to the poles. The westernmost parts of B.C. were quite different from now. The coastline was probably much further inland. The area where we found the tracks was a low coastal floodplain, with rivers flowing into the sea only a few to 10 kilometres west of where the tracks were.” Judging from the tracks, turtle remains and abundant plant material found by Mustard and Boddy in the Bowser Basin, the entire area is likely rich in fossils, including dinosaur bones. The duo's discovery sheds new light on the evolution and geography of the world during the Cretaceous period. It was a time when new groups of dinosaurs were evolving and flowering plants were beginning to evolve.

As to why such a major prehistoric find has been unearthed only now, Mustard offers, “Much of the Bowser basin is a very remote and rarely travelled region because of its precipitous landscape.” The potential for significant oil and gas in the basin is beginning to attract geologists and energy surveyors. Mustard and Boddy were mapping the ridge of rock for the Geological Survey of Canada and the B.C. ministry of energy and mines when they made their discovery.

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