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Coastguards rescue dinosaur from souvenir hunters
Coastguards rescue dinosaur from souvenir hunters
By Paul Stokes
(Originally Filed: 30/08/2001)

A COASTGUARD team performed a moonlit operation to rescue a fossilised set of dinosaur footprints from beneath a 70ft high cliff.

The seven auxiliaries were pressed into action as the tracks of a 170 million-year-old creature, found in a huge boulder, came under threat from souvenir hunters. A 250lb section of rock was cut free before the part-time coastguards wrapped it in sleeping bags and blankets and lashed it to a rescue stretcher. Then they hauled it for more than an hour across a remote beach strewn with boulders, some as large as small cars, to the nearest road.

The four prints, of a 5ft tall, plant-eating dinosaur from the Jurassic period, are now being prepared for exhibition at the Wood End natural history museum in Scarborough, North Yorks. Alistair Bowden, a project officer with the Dinosaur Coast scheme, said: "Calling in the coastguards was the only way we could ensure the safe recovery of the prints.

"It was a hell of a job, even for them. By the end they were exhausted and sweating rivers." The EC-funded scheme is designed to protect and promote the fossil-rich cliffs along the edge of the North Sea from Flamborough Head to Staithes, near Whitby.

Mr Bowden discovered the footprints about three weeks ago in a remote bay north of Scarborough.
He said: "Normally we like to leave them in situ but when I returned about a week ago I found someone about to cut one of the footprints out. "The three toes of each foot can be made out easily. Unfortunately they give little clue as to the exact identity of the dinosaur."

Phil Ralph, Scarborough Coastguard commander, who led the team, said: "We had to walk in over the rough ground of the beach for about a mile-and-a-half. "That was bad enough but carrying it out was a real job. The average adult weighs between 12 and 15 stone, but this was considerably heavier, possibly as much as 20 stone.

"We had to treat it as gently as a real injured person and what with the slippery rocks and rough ground it was a real test of skill to get it - and us - out without damage." New research into the the ostrich-like Gallimimus has shown that it took a more sedate approach to lunch than some of its more fearsome relatives who used razor sharp teeth and claws to devour prey.

Using its beak as a straw, the carnivorous dinosaur slurped up food from ponds and mud 70 million years ago, just like a modern duck. The discovery has surprised palaeontologists who believed that the creature used its pointed beak to stab at prey. The clues to its eating habits came from a fossil found in the Gobi desert by Dr Peter Makovicky from the Field Museum, Chicago, and reported today in the journal Nature.

Source: http://www.telegr...dino30.xml
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