LIDAR-based Characterization and Conservation of the First Theropod Dinosaur Trackways from Arkansas, USA

Document Type


Publication Date



LIDAR-based analyses of the first theropod dinosaur trackways known from the state of Arkansas, USA are reported. The trackways were found on a limestone bedding plane in the Albian De Queen Formation in an active gypsum quarry. Because limited access precluded thorough field study, fieldwork focused on preserving the entire site digitally with ground-based LIDAR, and detailed measurements were later taken digitally from point cloud data. The site contains eight tridactyl trackways associated with sauropod trackways and numerous isolated tracks. Although there appear to be two different tridactyl morphotypes, we show that the tracks are all likely from a single species of trackmaker. We apply a simple method of estimating substrate consistency by comparing the differences between true track dimensions and apparent track dimensions. The tridactyl tracks at the southern end of the site are preserved with significantly greater differences in true vs. apparent dimensions and are shallower than the rest of the tridactyl tracks at the site, which we interpret as the result of outward expansion of the soft tissues of the foot upon contact with a firm substrate. We interpret the firm substrate as having high bulk density and high shear strength, which also explain associated manus-only sauropod tracks. We show that the tridactyl tracks are likely from theropod trackmakers and that footprint lengths, trackway paces, stride lengths, and pace angulations of the De Queen trackways are statistically indistinguishable from equivalent measurements of theropod trackways in the Glen Rose Formation. The Glen Rose tracks are attributed to the large-bodied theropod, Acrocanthosaurus and we likewise attribute the De Queen tracks to Acrocanthosaurus, which is known from skeletal remains in temporally equivalent units and from the mine itself.


Principal Investigator: Steve Boss


National Science Foundation RAPID grant NSF EAR-1143968 to S. Boss https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=11439

The digital reconstruction of the trackway site can be viewed at the CAST website.