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Dinosaur tracks (completed)

In 1960, the discovery of ornithopod dinosaur footprints from Svalbard was received as a sensation because they constituted the first indisputable evidence that dinosaurs had inhabited the polar latitudes. Later, in 1976, tracks of a medium-sized theropod were discovered at a second locality in the same formation at Kvalvågen, eastern Spitsbergen. These two records, together with a find from Kempendajay, Siberia, were isolated discoveries until the late 1980s and polar environments were not considered of further importance for dinosaur research. However, this has since changed, and in the last 20 years, more than ten arctic areas have yielded both skeletal remains and footprints of dinosaurs, ranging from the late Jurassic to late Cretaceous in North America, Siberia and Svalbard, demonstrating that the finds of dinosaurs at polar latitudes were not isolated phenomena.

During the 2001 SVALEX excursion to the Festingen locality at Isfjorden, and later with the SVALSIM group mapping in April 2002 of the Festningen sandstone, Helvetiafjellet Formation (Early Cretaceous, Barremian), several new dinosaur tracks were discovered on the same escarpment as the 13 footprints found in 1960. Based on superficial resemblance, the latter were identified as belonging to Iguanodon but have since been considered to belong to a different, although related, ornithopod dinosaur. Unfortunately all of the tracks discovered in 1960 have since been lost due to erosion by the sea. A description of these new dinosaurtracks was undertaken in 2004 and 2005.


Hurum, J.H., Milàn, J., Hammer, Ø., Midtkandal, I., Amundsen, H. & Sæther, B. 2006. Tracking polar dinosaurs - new finds from the Lower Cretaceous of Svalbard. Norwegian Journal of Geology 86, 397-402.

Morten Bergan, Jørn Harald Hurum, Reidar Müller, Johan Petter Nystuen & Nicole Klein. 2006. A late Triassic (Rhaetian) dinosaur bone, offshore Norway. NGF Abstracts and Proceedings, no. 3, 41-42

Hurum, Jørn H., Johan Petter Nystuen, Morten Bergan, Reidar Müller. 2006. Norges første - og verdens dypeste - dinosaurfunn. Geo 4:46-47.

Digital model of the tracks in the crevasse at Festningen. Computer reconstruction of part of the dinosaur trackway site at Festningen, Svalbard, based on laser scanning in 2002. The vertical surface covered, seen from the fissure side, is approx. 3x3.5 m. Higher relief is given brighter shade. Flat areas represent missing data and openings in the wall. Features seen in the scan include an almost complete footprint pointing to the lower left (1), an almost complete footprint pointing upwards (2) it is the footprint cast and pictured in figure 4 and 5b , a smaller, less clear footprint pointing upwards (3), an unclear footprint possibly pointing upwards (4), and a large, blurred footprint with unclear orientation (5). Several other footprints are blurred or distorted, and a number of footprints were also observed outside the scanned area.
A1. The first tracks described from Festningen, which are now lost to erosion, were preserved as shallow imprints in the sandstone beds. Photograph of a cast of one of the best tracks, PMO X621. A2, schematic series of possible formation of the tracks. Upper illustration: the track is imprinted in sandstone layers separated by thin mud layers. The weight of the animal causes the formation of undertracks in the layers subjacent to the foot. Middle illustration: the track is covered by other sediment and is lithified. Lower illustration: present day erosion of the cliffs has exposed the horizon with the shallow-relief undertrack. B1. Tracks in the crevice are found as natural casts on the underside of a sandstone bed, due to erosion of the coal seam. Photograph of cast PMO 210.570. B2 schematic series of possible formation of the tracks. Upper illustration: the track is emplaced in an organic-rich swamp. Middle illustration: after removal of the foot, the track is covered by sand. Lower illustration: present day erosion has removed the softer coal seams and exposed the natural sandstone casts of the tracks. C1. Photograph of original track preserved as isolated sandstone casts in organic rich shale. C2 interpretative schematic series explaining the unusual type of preservation. Upper illustration: the track is imprinted in soft, layered organic-rich clay. Undertracks are formed along several subjacent horizons. Middle illustration: subsequently to lifting of the foot, the tracks become filled with sand. Lower illustration: present day erosion level has exposed the track as an isolated sandstone cast. The clay layers around the sandstone cast seem to form a bowl shaped structure below the sandstone cast. This is due to differentiated erosion of the clay layers the track was emplaced in.
Festningen. The locality from where the dinosaur tracks were found. Rocks (sandstones) of Early Cretaceous age.
Published Sep. 14, 2015 1:46 PM - Last modified Sep. 25, 2015 1:52 PM