Saturday, June 8, 2013

Oklahoma-Texas Evolution Road Trip, Part Four. Dinosaur Tracks

Dinosaur Valley State Park appears to be mainly a place for kids to go swimming in safe shallow water. There are no longer any dinosaurs there, I think even Carl Baugh would admit. The water was at a normal level, not flood stage, but we could find only a few Acrocanthosaurus prints. They were, however, quite striking.

When I visited this riverbed in September 2011 with Glen Kuban (see entries on this blog for October 7, 14, 21, and 29 of 2011), there was hardly any water in the river. God had not yet answered Governor Perry’s call to prayer for rain. At that time, we could see entire trackways of dinosaur prints.

The Road Trip participants met outside the gift shop, by the dinosaur statues (apparently left over from a movie set). I found that everyone had a pretty good idea what you could tell from dinosaur trackways as opposed to individual footprints. That is, what does an ichnologist study? If you know the size and stride, you can calculate how fast the creature was running. Some trackways were made by dinosaurs running about 30 miles per hour. But it took awhile for the participants to figure out what was most glaringly wrong about the statues. It was this: both the big herbivorous dinosaur and the smaller carnivore were dragging their tails. In the trackways of the riverbed, there are extremely few tail traces. A Paluxysaurus tail could weigh a ton, but the animal held it up above the ground, perhaps for balance, or perhaps to whip it around to knock the living daylights out of one of those humans who was chasing it, in the middle of The Flood no less, with a hammer, which the human dropped into the mud and it eventually ended up in Carl Baugh’s museum. (BTW, how did fresh and salt water stay separate during The Flood? For answers, see my 1988 and 1989 articles in Creation/Evolution, published at the time by the National Center for Science Education. These articles appear to not be on the NCSE website anymore.)

We enjoyed some Texas barbecue in Glen Rose. Someone on NPR said that you can throw a rock anywhere in Texas and hit a barbecue place that is better than anyplace else in the world. That is only a slight exaggeration. But were we just having fun? No. Even this was class time. I told people about Harvard professor Wranglin’ Rich Wrangham’s barbecue theory of human evolution. The ability to cook food, whether of plant or animal origin, allowed humans to ingest more calories; this was essential for brain enlargement.

We drove safely back to the OU Biological Station, arriving after sunset and quickly retiring to our rooms.

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