Scientists find old 5-toed tracks on beach

Nov. 5, 2004 at 4:40 PM   |   Comments

DENVER, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Paleontologists have discovered tracks of five-toed animals that may have been among the first to conquer the land preserved in rock on a Nova Scotia beach.

Spencer Lucas of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science says the find shows pentadactyls -- animals with five toes -- developed early and were the main evolutionary line, instead of being a later offshoot of animals with other designs.

The tracks from the Horton Bluff formation on Blue Beach in Hantsport appear to be 345 million to 359 million years old, made by reptile-like tetrapods living in what was then a tropical swamp. At least six species with tracks ranging in size from less than an inch to 4 inches have been found.

The scientists say tracks can actually show more about an animal's behavior than fossil remains.

"Nova Scotia is the Rosetta Stone for Carboniferous footprints," Lucas said.

Lucas and other members of the team believe their find shows five-toed animals developed early and were the main evolutionary line, instead of being a later offshoot of animals with other designs.

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