Dr. James Farlow, professor of geology at Indiana University-Purdue University, bent down and pointed to a dinosaur track.
“See all these holes?” he asked Tuesday morning. Tiny ones appear in the eroded limestone bed of what used to be the edge of an ancient sea. “Those are vertical worm holes.”
Nearby, another track had “ropey things” in it, probably the burrows of some invertebrate, probably shrimp, he noted.Prehistoric shrimp, that is.
“It's like they're healing the surface impressed by the footprint,” Dr. Farlow said. “This was an active area biologically.”
Dr. Farlow has brought a team of researchers with him to study the dinosaur tracks discovered last fall behind the Comfort Inn & Suites on land owned by Larry Smith Sr. More tracks have been uncovered beneath the layers of shale and gravel as Glen Rose ISD students and students from Wayland
Baptist University and others have participated in the search for new tracks.
“It's very impressive,” Dr. Farlow said of the site in general. “There are some nice tracks.”
But the tracks aren't rare. What's significant about the site, he said, is the “interesting story of positioning the tracks and the other kinds of trace fossils in it.
“The interaction of the tracks with other kinds of traces makes for a whole package,” he added. “You get a dynamic edge-of-the-sea type of situation.”
Dr. Farlow knows what he's talking about. He's spent 30 years coming back and forth to Texas studying dinosaur tracks. He's currently involved in a project to map the tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Both projects — uncovering and mapping the tracks and developing the site behind the Comfort Inn and the effort at Dinosaur Valley — need funding.
Jerry Jacene, foreman of the site behind the hotel, said he hopes to find funding to keep work going on two acres of the site. He's been talking with private investors, but noted the going has been tough.
Dr. Farlow said another element that makes the site special is that it's accessible, it's not subject to the rise and fall of a river and it's valuable for education.
“It's a fine opportunity for kids or people of all ages,” Dr. Farlow said.
Indeed, soon after Dr. Farlow uttered those words, four first-graders appeared at the site led by Patti Flannary, Glen Rose ISD's instructional technologist at the district's Technology Center. The students asked Dr. Farlow questions as Flannary recorded them on video. Then the footage will be broadcast as a “distance learning” opportunity to Fort Worth, where it will be viewed by students at 10 schools.
Dr. Farlow said he expects the site will turn up other tracks, perhaps even located in different layers.
“It's possible we'll find more than one level containing tracks,” he said. “That would indicate rises and falls and rises and falls in the ocean — and dinosaurs walking in the mud.”