Back in 1940, archaeologists excavated a spectacular set of dinosaur footprints that had been found in Texas. The footprints trailed over a pathway nearly 150 feet long. The whole track, though, was carved up into smaller specimens and distributed. Over the years, many of the blocks disappeared from the record entirely.
But even things that are lost can still be found, sometimes. A new study published in PLOS One shows how researchers took a closer look at 17 photographs of the site that were taken decades ago, before it was dismantled. Using a technique called photogrammetry, they were able to re-create the scene on a computer, a technique that could be immensely valuable to both paleontologists and archaeologists in the future.
Dr Falkingham said: "Here we're showing that you can do this to lost or damaged specimens or even entire sites if you have photographs taken at the time.
"And that means we can reconstruct digitally, and 3D print, objects that no longer exist."
There are other trackways across the United States that have been preserved, including Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut, and a set of newly discovered trackways in Arkansas. One of the most famous dinosaur trackways is located in a remote corner of Australia at Lark Quarry.
For the Texas track, paleontologists were able to determine that the footprints were left by a sauropod (a herbivore) and a theropod (a carnivore), who was chasing the sauropod 110 million years ago. But though we now know about the chase, we’ll probably never know whether or not the sauropod eluded its pursuer.