LAS VEGAS (AP) – A professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said he recently identified fossilized footprints of a reptile along a popular trail in Grand Canyon National Park, a newspaper reported.
Professor Steve Rowland theorized that the tracks belong to a primitive reptile the size of an alligator and date from 315 million years, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The 28 footprints run diagonally through a rock at the edge of the Shining Path of the Grand Canyon.
Rowland shared her findings at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He hopes to present a scientific article in January.
He saw the prints for the first time last year during a family vacation and said that "they turned out to be quite extraordinary." He said he heard about them from another geologist who saw them during a 2016 walk.
Scientists probably will never know exactly what type of animal left the prints, Rowland said, adding that he visualizes a lizard-like creature about 2 feet (0.6 meters) in length, similar to a Galápagos iguana.
He said he has spoken with the park officials about what to do with the rock with the footprints and that he would like to see it moved from the canyon and added to a museum.
"It's more than likely that it will not happen," park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
She said that removing the rock and showing it elsewhere does not align with the National Park Service's mission of preserving resources in their natural state.
"But we can put an interpretive sign that tells people what they're seeing," Cobb said.