MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay plans to build an observatory for the fossilized dinosaur tracks found in 2009 in the northern region of Tacuarembo with an eye toward protecting them so that they do not deteriorate and disappear, the head of the project, Daniel Perea, told EFE.
A team of paleontologists from the Universidad de la Republica launched the effort to look for fossils and dinosaur tracks in Mesozoic sedimentary layers and eight years ago found the tracks belonging to dinosaurs in an area near Highway 26, near the town of Cuchilla del Ombu.
This is the first set of dinosaur tracks to be found in Uruguay, Perea said.
At present, supported by funds being provided by the Education and Culture Ministry after the project won a ministry contest and another contribution from the Tacuarembo Manager’s Office, a “museum” is being planned that would consist mainly of a “lightweight structure” to protect the tracks. Current plans are to finish the project by late 2017 or 2018.
“The first objective is to protect those tracks because they are deteriorating. Once they are (uncovered) and erosion begins to work on them, they start to deteriorate and could disappear,” Perea said.
“The priority is protection and, after that, displaying them for the general public. ... A system of explanatory panels could be made ... so that the people coming along the route can observe them,” he said.
Perea said that mud and sand made up the terrain in the zone some 150 million years ago, and it was in that substrate that the tracks were made, but geological processes transformed them into sandstone, thus preserving them up to the present day.
“The issue is that erosion continues working,” he said, adding that rain, the sun, humidity and other factors are causing the tracks to deteriorate, thus increasing the chances that they will disappear if something is not done to protect them.
“Those types of rocks near Tacuarembo are from the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. They are very valuable, and besides it’s a chronological period that is seldom found in South America,” he concluded.