LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A geology professor with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas discovered a set of footprints that were left behind by a reptile-like creature 310 million years ago at the Grand Canyon.
According to a statement from UNLV, the age of the footprints was discovered by Professor Steve Rowland. The set of 28 footprints are the oldest ever recovered inside Grand Canyon National Park and is one the earliest reptile tracks on earth.
Rowland, who recently presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, said it's not likely the tracks he found are the oldest of their kind, UNLV said.
"In terms of reptile tracks, this is really old," Rowland said. He added the tracks were made as the super continent Pangaea was starting to form.
UNLV said Rowland was first notified of the tracks in 2016 when a colleague was hiking with a group of students along the Bright Angel Trail and noticed a large boulder that was marked with footprints.
"My first impression was that it looked very bizarre because of the sideways motion," Rowland said. "It appeared that two animals were walking side-by-side. But you wouldn’t expect two lizard-like animals to be walking side-by-side. It didn’t make any sense."
A year later, Rowland was studying the tracks up close and started hypothesizing about the oddity of the footprints, UNLV said.
Rowland said he came up with several possibilities, including that the animal may have been walking in a strong wind, was walking on a steep slope, had side-stepped while walking on a sand dune or was involved in some sort of mating ritual.
"I don’t know if we’ll be able to rigorously choose between those possibilities," he added. However, Rowland said there's a chance the footprints belong to a creature that has never been discovered.
"It absolutely could be that whoever was the trackmaker, his or her bones have never been recorded," Rowland said.