Wed Jul 6, 8:46 AM ET
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A track from a three-toed dinosaur believed to be about 70 million years old has been discovered in Denali National Park, the first evidence that the animals roamed there, scientists said.
The footprint was found June 27 by a University of Alaska Fairbanks student taking a geology field course.
The fossil is 9 inches long and 6 inches wide, officials said.
The discovery's importance was its location in Interior Alaska, far from the coastline where other tracks have been found, said Anthony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the Dallas Museum of Natural History.
"It's not necessarily the track itself that's significant," he said. "It's where it is that's got us all excited."
From the size of the track, he estimates the meat-eater was 9 to 13 feet long.
"You are looking at a very large, birdlike animal except it has teeth and a tail and instead of wings, it has arms," he said. A rough comparison, he said, would be a scaled-down Tyrannosaurus rex.
Susi Tomsich, an undergraduate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, spotted the track on the underside of a ledge.
"Something told me to look around and I did and I spotted this one," she said.
She pointed it out to Paul McCarthy, associate professor of geology, who instantly recognized what she had found.
"I gave a little howl," McCarthy said. "It was a big rush."