Cliff collapse at Grand Canyon reveals 313 million-year-old fossil footprints

Aug 21, 2020, 4:05 AM | Updated: 8:41 am
grand canyon fossil...
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Rowland/via Grand Canyon National Park)
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Rowland/via Grand Canyon National Park)

PHOENIX — The oldest recorded fossilized vertebrate tracks within Grand Canyon National Park were discovered following a cliff collapse, paleontological research has confirmed.

The tracks were discovered in 2016 when Norwegian geology professor, Allan Krill, was hiking with his students and noticed a boulder containing fossil footprints in plain view next to a trail.

Krill then sent photographs of the find to colleague Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks,” Rowland said in a press release.

“They are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

The tracks recorded the passage of two separate animals; of particular interest to researchers is the gait displayed in one of the tracks.

The arrangement of footprints displays a lateral-sequence walk in which the legs on one side of the animal move in succession, the rear leg followed by the foreleg, alternating with the movement of the two legs on the opposite side.

“Living species of tetrapods, dogs and cats, for example, routinely use a lateral-sequence gait when they walk slowly,” Rowland said.

“The Bright Angel Trail tracks document the use of this gait very early in the history of vertebrate animals. We previously had no information about that.”

The footprints also document the earliest known utilization of sand dunes by vertebrate animals.

The boulder containing the historic find was determined to have fallen from a nearby cliff-exposure of the Manakacha Formation.

A research article of the fossilized tracks can be found online.

Arizona News

Rain hits the East Valley early Sunday, Sept. 26, near US 60 and Val Vista Drive. (ADOT freeway cam...

East Valley, Phoenix hit by more rain, thunderstorms as monsoon season continues

More rain fell across the East Valley and parts of the Phoenix metro area Sunday morning, continuing one of the better monsoon seasons in Arizona's recent history.
12 hours ago
A certified medical assistant prepares doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center...

Arizona reports 2,579 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths Sunday

Arizona health officials on Sunday reported 2,579 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths from the disease.
12 hours ago
(Cave Creek Museum Photo)...

Cave Creek Museum to kick off 2021-2022 season this October

The Cave Creek Museum is set to kick off the 2021-2022 season this October with new collections, exhibits and special events, officials announced.
12 hours ago
(Photo courtesy of the city of Glendale)...
SuElen Rivera

Downtown Glendale launches mobile app to navigate city, benefit merchants

The Glendale Chamber of Commerce on Thursday launched a mobile app intended to help visitors in Downtown Glendale navigate around shops and merchants promote their products.
12 hours ago
Phoenix Fire Department photo...

Firefighters rescue injured hiker on South Mountain in helicopter

A man who fell six feet during his hike on South Mountain got transported via a helicopter to a local ambulance.
2 days ago
Near 12th Street and Northern Avenue, Phoenix. (Twitter Photo/@Crossfire923)...
SuElen Rivera

Parts of Valley sees light showers, more chances of rain this weekend

As monsoon season wraps up, parts of the Valley received some rain Friday evening heading into the weekend.
2 days ago
Cliff collapse at Grand Canyon reveals 313 million-year-old fossil footprints