Tyrannosaur track found 10-km from Tumbler Ridge only 15th in the world

By on September 4, 2015
Carina Helm with her tyrannosaur track find near Tumbler Ridge. Photo: Submitted

Carina Helm with her tyrannosaur track find near Tumbler Ridge. Photo: Submitted

TUMBLER RIDGE – Another tyrannosaur footprint, the fifteenth to be discovered in the world and the ninth in the Tumbler Ridge area, was found by chance on August 20 by a young geography student and her father.

It was found only 10-kilometres from Tumbler Ridge.

Carina Helm, a student at the University of British Columbia, and her father were working on some trails near Tumbler Ridge when they made the find.

“My dad and I were returning in the evening from repairing boardwalks on one of the hiking trails, when I told him I knew of some big exposed rock slabs. We worked out that these were maybe from an age that could feature dinosaur tracks, so we decided to make a detour to have a look,” Helm said.

“The very first rock I went to, right beside the road, had this huge track-shape on it with three toes. I thought, ‘Surely that is too big to be a footprint?’ but I showed it to my dad and next thing he was on his cell-phone to Rich McCrea telling him about the find.”

Other tyrannosaur tracks around the world have been found in Mongolia, New Mexico and Alberta, but the majority—including the only known tyrannosaur trackways in the world—were discovered in inside the newly-established Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark.

The remote location of most of those finds make Helm’s discovery significant in contrast, as it is close to Tumbler Ridge and easily accessible from the road.

The day following Helm’s discovery, Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley, palaeontologists at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC) in Tumbler Ridge, travelled to the tracksite and were able to confirm that the footprint had indeed been made by a tyrannosaur.

The track measures 59-centimetres in length, but would have at one time been much larger, as can be observed by the fact that the tip of the longest toe and claw have eroded away.

McCrea and Buckley also concluded that the tyrannosaur that made the print was likely similar to the Albertasaurus.

“It can sometimes be a challenge to identify the maker of a single print, especially one that has been weathered by the elements,” said McCrea. Even with the tips of the digits (the claw impressions) eroded away, the footprint found by Carina Helm still possesses characteristics that make it identifiable as the product of a meat-eating (theropod) dinosaur. In addition to the morphological features of the footprint, which bears great similarity to the ones discovered in the fall of 2011 by Mr. Aaron Fredlund (subsequently named Bellatoripes fredlundi), the size of the print and the age of the rocks it was found in provide further evidence that the track-maker was a tyrannosauroid.”

Incidentally, the first tyrannosauroid tooth found in British Columbia was found by McCrea in 2004, in the same area as this find.

Now that the track has been discovered, the location of the find presents a problem for its potential caretakers, as the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) considers the logistics of moving the slab or leaving it where it is.

The slab containing the track is extrememly heavy and therefore will present obvious logistical problems should the TRMF attempt to move it to the museum.

On the other hand if they opt to promote the track as a “roadside attraction”, because of its close vicinity to an accesible roadway, there is concern around certain eventual vandalism or theft.

While TRMF considers this conundrum they will proceed with making casts of the track and documenting it with 3D digital photogrammetry.

Palaeontologists use photogrammetry—the science of using photography to measure distances—to determine the path of motion which the dinosaur might have taken through its environment.

Helm’s discovery was not her first of the season; on the same day she was part of the team which discovered the smallest track (six centimetres) to be found in this region.

“Thank you, Carina.  It is people like you who make our operation so successful.  Your sharp eyes and enthusiasm for preserving our fossil heritage continue to contribute to the growth in importance of the TRMF fossil collection,” said Jim Kincaid, TRMF president.

She also discovered two other trackways in a canyon of much older rock layers earlier this summer.

“It is exciting to be able to contribute to science and the Geopark in this way,” said Helm.

Stacy Thomas


Outline of tyrannosaur track found near Tumbler Ridge on August 20. Photo: Submitted

Outline of tyrannosaur track found near Tumbler Ridge on August 20. Photo: Submitted

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