Dinosaur footprints found at restaurant courtyard
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Last year, a listener who was 8 years old reached out to tell us about a glaring problem with our news coverage. Here's Leo in Minneapolis.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
LEO: I listen to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED in the car with mom. I never hear much about nature or dinosaurs or things like that. Maybe you should call your show Newsy Things Considered since I don't get to hear about all the things, or please talk more about dinosaurs and cool things. Sincerely, Leo.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Well, Leo, this next story is for you because paleontologists in southwest China have discovered a new set of footprints, which they say belong to two dinosaurs that walked the planet some 100 million years ago.
SHAPIRO: Scott Persons is a paleontologist at the College of Charleston. He's worked with the Chinese scientists who made this discovery, though he was not involved in this particular find.
SCOTT PERSONS: I would say that right now, China, in particular with regards to dinosaur footprints, is undergoing a fossil renaissance. A lot of new and exciting spots are being discovered.
SUMMERS: OK, this is where the story gets especially interesting. These tracks weren't discovered in some remote patch of desert. An observant diner spotted them at a restaurant, embedded in the stone floor of the courtyard.
PERSONS: I have to say, I've never gone to a restaurant to discover dinosaur tracks.
RILEY BLACK: I think it's super rad that people found dinosaur tracks outside of a restaurant. Just the fact that somebody noticed this and called it out I think is pretty great. And it's a reminder that the fossil record is all around us.
SHAPIRO: Riley Black is a paleontologist and science writer.
BLACK: Even sometimes when they go on walks around Salt Lake City, a lot of the sidewalks that we have out there are made from early Jurassic Sandstone. And I haven't seen a dinosaur in there yet, but you'll see little tracks made by proto-mammals and scorpions and spiders that were crawling all over these sand dunes. So there's really a whole sort of urban paleontology.
SHAPIRO: And as for the dino tracks in the restaurant courtyard, Chinese paleontologist Xing Lida was called in to investigate. He told CNN that his team used a 3D scanner to confirm that the imprints were left by sauropods.
SUMMERS: And if you are not a dinosaur buff like Leo, sauropods were plant-eaters with small heads and long necks and tails, and they were monstrous. Riley Black referred to them as the heavyweights of the dinosaur world.
BLACK: All these dinosaurs hatched out of eggs that were about the size of a grapefruit. So they were kind of like popcorn to the carnivores of their time. Their whole game plan, evolutionarily speaking, was to eat a whole bunch of plants and get big as fast as possible.
SHAPIRO: Now fossil footprints might not seem quite as cool as skeletons and bones, but to paleontologists, they provide a unique glimpse into how dinosaurs lived.
BLACK: Tracks are fossilized behavior. That is the motion of a living animal. And usually, tracks are some of the only evidence that we have of dinosaurs' social behavior.
SUMMERS: Their behavior in this case may have involved munching their way through their lush, green world because, Black says, these types of dinos ate constantly to maintain their size.
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