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A drought in the US state of Texas revealed the path to an ancient dinosaur. Last week, traces of an acrocanthosaurus, a dinosaur that lived 113 million years ago, were discovered in a dried-up river bed.
At the time, this area was on the edge of the sea, which meant that the dinosaur could go and wash its feet.
Like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Acrocanthosaurus was an apex predator, weighing approximately four metric tons. However, Acrocanthosaurus lived in the early Cretaceous period, 50 million years before its famous relative.
Video footage shows huge footprints imprinted on the bottom of the Paluxy River with three toes protruding from the heel. The toes are tipped with sharp claws, specialized for gaining traction while running and pinning prey to the ground.
Dinosaur tracks have been recorded for over 100 years in the area where the tracks were found at Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Now 480 km (300 mi) from the Gulf of Mexico, the state park is a dinosaur-watching hotspot because of its coastal history. Calcium carbonate deposits from the shells of crustaceans that lived in marine areas millions of years ago created mud of the perfect consistency to preserve the tracks.
Other dinosaur species with 100-million-year-old calcium carbonate footprints in the region include Sauroposeidon proteles, giant herbivores that traveled in herds and left footprints similar to elephants.
Drought revealing more ancient relics
The tracks were uncovered due to extreme drought conditions in Texas. Far from being a drought, the conditions have been going on for 20 years and have earned the classification of “megadrought”.
A recent study found that the region is experiencing its driest period in more than 1,200 years.
The climate crisis has revealed many ancient finds in recent years. An extreme drought in Iraq last year exposed the Bronze Age city of Zachika, giving archaeologists a brief window to explore the site before it is flooded again.
Low water levels have also revealed remnants of a gold rush in California, a sunken village in Germany, and a ghost village in Spain.
Although the findings connect us to lost relics of the past, experts warn that the increasing frequency and intensity of drought is having a catastrophic impact on ecosystems around the world.
With more than a million species currently at risk of extinction due to human activities and climate change, it is feared that many species alive today will be remembered only by their footprints.