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Every year, thousands of people walk up and down Dinosaur Ridge to get a glimpse into a world millions of years in the past.
But little did anyone know, until last year, that all the people walking on the southeast side of West Alameda Parkway were walking past one of the rarest finds in the paleontology world — a raptor track.
"This is only the second example of a raptor track found in North America," said geologist Dr. Martin Lockley, who found the track. "So far, there have been only about 16 of these tracks found in the world, and 12 of those are from China and Korea."
The two-toed track was found in an older layer of rock that dates back 105 million years. In a study that Lockley published with his research team in 2016, he shared his rare discovery, which led to Dinosaur Ridge hosting a ribbon cutting on Aug. 12 of this year to unveil the now protected track for all to see.
"Discoveries like these show the difference between a place where stuff is on display, and a dynamic spot where some of the world's best paleontology finds are still being discovered," said Jeff Lamontagne, executive director of Friends of Dinosaur Ridge. "We have so many rarities here already, so to find another one is just mind-boggling."
The raptor that made the footprint Lockley discovered actually had three toes, but one of them with a large claw retracted back, much like a cat.
"Unlike what you see in a lot of movies, raptors are more closely related to birds than anything else, so most aren't that big," he explained. "It wasn't until around 1994 that the first raptor tracks were found in China, and it wasn't until around 2008 that tracks were found in Utah."
The track proves there's still a lot of discovering to do at Dinosaur Ridge, and longtime volunteers like Norbert Cygan are always on the lookout for something nobody may have noticed before.
"You always keep your eye out up here," he said.
On Aug. 23, just a few hundred feet from where the raptor track was discovered, Cygan brought Lockley to see another potential dinosaur track. It was difficult to say for certain, but Lockley believes it may well be a dinosaur track.
"I think people will still be making discoveries on Dinosaur Ridge a hundred years from now, because methods for searching, as well as what people are looking for, are always changing," Lockley said. "I am constantly surprising myself by finding things here I hadn't noticed before."
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