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Footsteps of a monster

02/10/2007. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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A British dinosaur hunter has come across what he says may be the world's first T.rex footprint. The metre-square print has been found in the arid badlands of North America, and has been lying there for 67 million years. For generations, finding a T.rex footprint has been seen by many as the Holy Grail of palaeontology.

The discovery by Dr Phil Manning, from the University of Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, of a possible footprint is the centre piece of a special half-hour documentary for Inside Out on BBC One North West (Wednesday 10th October 2007, 7.30pm). Tyrannosaurus rex was one of the last dinosaurs to exist before the entire species was wiped out in a mass extinction. It was a flesh eating giant, standing 20 feet tall, 40 feet long and weighing in at about seven tons.

Only about 50 partial skeletons have been recovered since fossil hunters started looking for what was one of the largest carnivores to live on earth. All of the remains have been found in the Hell Creek area of America.

Dr Manning, who has travelled the world in search of dinosaur remains, has returned to a footprint he came across last year. Now he has been able to make a detailed study of the print.

"People have been trying to find T.rex tracks for a hundred years," Manning told SFcrowsnest.com. "Unless you come across an animal dead in its tracks you can't say for definite what left them. However with information available about the numbers of T.rex in the rocks of the Hell Creek formation it is the closest we have got so far to discovering a tyrannosaur track. And it could only be made by one of the two species known from Hell Creek - either the Nanotyrannus or its bigger relative Tyrannosaurus rex. The size of the footprint at 76 cm in length suggests it more likely to be the latter."

Manning's drawings and photos will now provide the basis for a scientific paper which he is looking to publish shortly. Dr Manning cannot say he has found a T.rex print until others have had their chance to study his findings. But he adds, "There is no such thing as a truth in science, so for us this is as close as we get to what I think is a fantastic find."

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