Sideways Walking Reptile Claims Title for the Oldest Known Footprints Found at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is full of wondrous sights, sounds, and experiences. Everything about the Grand Canyon is filled with history and adventure. Whether that means going back to the wild west, the Jurassic period or a little bit further, information is everywhere.

New research has found a set of twenty-eight tiny reptilian, fossilized footprints, embedded in a Grand Canyon rock. Experts say the find evokes evidence of a sideways walking reptile that is 315 million years old. That would make this tiny, cold-blooded creature older than the dinosaurs. It is the oldest set of footprints ever found in the Grand Canyon National Park. However, the source is stumping researchers.

“This is right in that little window of the very first reptiles,” Stephen Rowland a geology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Live Science. “We don’t know much about that real early history.” Rowland goes on to say that the footprints date back to the time when the Supercontinent Pangea was forming.

Rowland is the main researcher behind the track marks. While there are a few theories about the way the trackway, but it was Rowland who suggested the sideways theory. A friend of Rowland found the marks in 2016, which are preserved on a slab of sandstone. They show what researchers believe to be the animal’s front and back feet.

While Rowland is confident in his theory that the animal was walking sideways, the reason for it is elusive. There are many reasons, from injury to a mating dance, that could compel the sideways walk. However, there was no option that suggested that was just how the animal walked. Logically, researchers believe there had to be a specific reason for this odd movement. Unfortunately, even Rowland admits that it is not likely we will ever know the reason.

Rowland’s research has yet to be peer-reviewed. Yet, the tracks were publicly revealed to the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in October 2017. The scientific name of the creature is Chelichnus, due to its similarity to other track marks, found in Arizona. This does not mean that they are the same animal. Rather, the similarities are so striking, it is fitting to address them with the same scientific name.

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