We also don't
know for sure how the tracks have been preserved for all these millions
of years. One theory is that a violent storm blew across the shoreline
a few days before the dinosaurs left their footprints on the land,
creating a series of lime-laden mudflats. The shore turned to stone,
leaving behind the rocks we see in the park today, including the
ones with the dinosaur prints. Maybe it happened just that way.
We don't know for sure.
The American Museum of Natural History put some of the tracks on
view, and the Texas Memorial Museum on the University of Texas campus
displayed some others. Paleontologists initially identified the
tracks as belonging to an herbivorous dino name Pleurocoeleus, a
mild-mannered vegetarian giant about 50 feet long and tipping the
scales at 20 tons, give or take a ton or two. In 1997, the state
legislature passed a resolution designating Pleurocoeleus as the
One thing we do know - now - is that the dinosaurs running away
from the sauropod weren't Pleurocoeleus. Nope. The former state
dinosaur of Texas was actually a resident of Maryland and never
made it to Texas.
The changing of the guard in the Texas dinosaur hierarchy started
in 2007, when Peter Rose, then at Southern Methodist University
in Dallas, disputed the
long-held identity of the Paluxy River sauropod. Rose took a close
look at sauropod bones at the Jones Ranch near Glen
Rose and determined that the bones he found there didn't match
the Pleurocoeleus bones first found in Maryland in the late 1800s.
Rose surmised that the bones belonged to a completely new genus
and species, and he renamed the Paluxy River sauropods Paluxysaurus
jonesi in honor of the river and the Jones Ranch. He saw the
original identification as an honest mistake.
"At the time sauropod tracks and bones were first discovered in
Texas, only Pleurocoeleus was known from North America for this
particular time period," Rose told LiveScience in 2009. "In 1974,
Wann Langston, Jr. described some sauropod fossils from Central
Texas that he determined to be similar enough to those from
Maryland that he referred them to genus Pleurocoeleus."
In January of 2009, State Rep. Charles Geren (R-Fort Worth), acting
on behalf of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, introduced
a resolution to name the Paluxysaurus the new state dinosaur. Representatives
Mike Hamilton and Mark Homer showed up in dinosaur suits to make
some kind of point, though Hamilton compromised the cause by mixing
up the words "extinct" and "instinct."
Representative Dan Gattis opposed the bill and cited international
fourth-grade spelling bee and grammar rules, claiming "the author
can't even spell or pronounce all the words in his resolution."
The resolution passed by a vote of 132-1, and Texas ended up with
a new state dinosaur.
That much we know.