LAS VEGAS – A geology professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas said he recently identified fossilized bands of a reptile along a popular trail in Grand Canyon National Park, a newspaper reported.
Professor Steve Rowland theorized that the bands belong to a primitive reptile the size of a baby alligator and date back to about 315 million years, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Thursday.
The 28 footprints run diagonally across a boulder at the edge of the Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail.
Rowland shared his findings at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology last month in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He hopes to submit a scientific paper in January.
He saw the prints for the first time last year during family vacations and said they "have become extraordinary." He said he heard of another geologist who saw them during a walk in 2016.
Scientists will probably never know exactly what kind of animal left the trails, Rowland said, adding that he imagines a lizard-like creature about 2 feet (0.6 meters) long, similar to a Galapagos iguana.
He said he talked to park officials about what to do with the stone with the prints and would like to see it come out of the canyon and be added to a museum.
"It's more than likely not to happen," said Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for the park.
She said removing the rock and displaying it elsewhere does not align with the National Park Service's mission of preserving features in its natural state.
"But we can put an interpretive plaque telling people what they're looking at," Cobb said.
The Associated Press