Friday, November 30, 2012

Cal Orck'o: Not A Place for the Acrophobic

In 1994, Klaus Schütt discovered an enormous slab of dinosaur tracks.  You're probably thinking enormous like Jabba the Hutt enormous or my cat enormous.  (She's a big kitty).  But no, I mean ENORMOUS enormous.  And by ENORMOUS enormous, I mean a mile wide and 500 feet tall.  Yeah, that big.  Another thing about Cal Orck'o: its on a 70 degree incline.

Real fast, let me include a brief disclaimer: I have looked at probably 25 different books and websites that mention this place, and half of them spell it "Cal Orco," and the other half spell it "Cal Orko," while a few even spell it "Cal Orcko."  The UNESCO website calls it "Cal Orck'o," so that's the one that I went with on the blog.  So yeah, I really don't know which way is which, but nevertheless, this place is quite an interesting fossil site!

It wasn't until 1998 that Christian Meyer, a Swiss paleontologist, lead a team of scientists to investigate the site, which is near a concrete factory in Sucre, Bolivia.  They found that the enormous trackway is from the Late Cretaceous Period, dated at around 68 million years ago (MYA).  They learned that, at the time that the rocks and footprints were formed, the area was a lakeside where animals from all over would come to drink.  They also determined that Cal Orck'o was the "largest site of dinosaur tracks found so far," possessing the largest number of dinosaur footprints of anywhere in the world.

Cal Orck'o has over 5,000 dinosaur tracks made by at least six identified dinosaurs in around 250 trackways, some of which extend for hundreds of feet in a single direction.

Due to the extremely steep face of the fossil site, erosion is a constant threat to the dinosaur footprints.  The Bolivian government combats this by spending a whopping $30 million every year.  Despite this, a large chunk broke off in February of 2010, destroying around 300 footprints.   

Information on Cal Orck'o is extremely spotty, and the website for the site doesn't seem to have an "English" option.  My Spanish skills are pretty rudimentary at best, but I think I was able to come up with a list of the dinosaurs whose tracks are preserved at Cal Orck'o.  Now, keep in mind, very rarely do you definitively know what animal made a fossilized footprint, and most of the time these are simply good guesses.  For the picture below, I used ones taken from the garden area thing at the Cal Orck'o museum.  So if you are going to blame someone for inaccurate data, make sure you blame them and not me!

An abelisaur, a type of carnivorous dinosaur like Abelisaurus or Carnotaurus.
An iguanodont, a type of herbivorous dinosaur like Iguanodon.
A ceratopsian, a type of dinosaur like Triceratops or Protoceratops.
An ankylosaur, a type of dinosaur like Ankylosaurus.
A titanosaur, a type of sauropod dinosaur like Saltasaurus.
A dromaeosaur, a type of carnivorous dinosaur like Velociraptor.
A ceratosaur, a type of carnivorous dinosaur like Ceratosaurus.
A hadrosaur, a type of herbivorous dinosaur like Parasaurolophus.
A tyrannosaur, a type of carnivorous dinosaur like Tyrannosaurus.
Again, keep in mind that I have next to no idea which of these, if any, were found at Cal Orck'o.  I plan on doing a little bit of digging within the next few weeks, so hopefully I will be able to get back to you sometime soon!

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