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DESERT TALES: Rajasthan was once a real Jurassic Park (Feb.)


Mail Today, Delhi, Monday 17th February 2014

About 10km from Jaisalmer, near Thaiat village on the Jaisalmer-Jodhpur highway, a scientific wonder has been discovered as a mute testimony to the lost world that existed about 180 million years ago.

A group of 34 scientists from across the world, led by Professor Dhirendra Kumar Pandey of the Geology department of the University of Rajasthan during a visit to Jaisalmer Basin of Jurassic outcrops, found two fossilised footprints from two different species of dinosaurs - very small and very large.

"It has been confirmed and authenticated by eminent international authority on dinosaurs and vertebrate palaeontologist Professor Emeritus Ashok Sahni, associated with Lucknow University, who was sent the photographs of the footprints," Pandey told Mail Today.

These were the first evidence that Jurassic dinosaurs, both small and big, once lived in the desert state of Rajasthan, he pointed out.

Dr. Jan Schlogl of Comenius University, Slovakia and Professor Grzegorz Pienkowski from the Polish Geological Institute, Warsaw spotted some peculiar structures. They were soon recognised by Prof. Pienkowski as dinosaur footprints.

The first one was rather small, only five centimetres long, but perfectly imprinted on the upper surface of a sandstone bed. Its shape and name was clear - Grallator, the footprint of a small predatory Theropod dinosaur.

Prof D.K. Pandey said the larger dinosaur would have been more agile and dangerous than a crocodile

Prof D.K. Pandey said the larger dinosaur would have been more agile and dangerous than a crocodile

"The footprint made was not bigger than [that of] a hen," Pandey said. However, the second footprint was about 30-cm long. Such tridactyl (of three toes) footprint, known as Eubrontes Giganteus, was left by a much bigger creature - large Theropod dinosaur.

Prof. Pienkowski estimated that the footprint maker could be 6-7 metres long, which means it was longer than the longest known crocodile.

In fact, it was not only longer, but much more dangerous and agile than a crocodile, running fast on its two legs, grasping its prey with strong clawed forelimbs and terrifying jaws, armed with sharp teeth, pointed out Pandey. Their teeth were some three times longer than the teeth of the Indian tiger, he added.

Both the species are carnivorous.

The find occurred after the 9th International Congress on the Jurassic System held last month in Jaipur. The group of 34 expert participants from Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, UK and India had visited the Jaisalmer Basin as part of their field excursion.

Careful geological observation performed by the team allowed interpreting ancient environments in which these rocks (once being soft sediments) were deposited.

"We can imagine a vast coastal zone in the region, on which the Jurassic sea encroached some 180 million years ago," said Pandey, who has the credit of recording Pterosaurs (flying reptiles) bore fragment in the same Thaiat village of Jaisalmer in 2006.